A former DIA employee has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city

Benjamin Juarez alleges pay disparities among employees and racist language by a former airport supervisor.
2 min. read
Denver International Airport temperatures dipped below minus 10 degrees Thursday morning, Dec. 12, 2022.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Denver International Airport's (DIA) former director of parking has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming retaliation and discrimination against minority employees.

Former DIA employee Benjamin Juarez, who is Hispanic, claims in the lawsuit that he faced retaliation after complaining about discriminatory pay disparity between him and white employees hired at the same job classification level.

Juarez's lawyer, Steven Murray, says white employees at DIA received higher starting salaries or promotion pay than minority employees.

Juarez alleges in the lawsuit that DIA paid him $120,000, while hiring a different white director at $138,000, and that, after he resigned in March 2022, the city replaced him with a white man at a salary of $145,000.

"Juarez requests a jury trial and seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and other relief," Murray said in a statement.

According to the lawsuit, Juarez received a notice of misconduct and threats of termination in response to reporting discrimination and pay disparities.

Juarez alleges that his then-supervisor, former DIA Senior Vice President Winfred Hensley, used racist language when discussion the promotion of a different employee. DIA fired Hensley in 2022 over allegations of discrimination and harassment by employees and following an audit of the airport's shuttle system, the Denver Post reported last year. Both Hensley and Juarez were reprimanded over findings by the Denver Auditor's office.

Juarez sent an email to other employees on his final day, criticizing Hensley and encouraging others to speak out.

"Juarez also reported to the City that Hensley made racist comments including: 'Yes, let's hire a Black guy to sit up front, so it looks good when Phil [Washington] comes down to our office,'" Murray wrote in a press release about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that employee ended up getting a 7% raise in his promotion, while a white employee received a 37% raise. Juarez also alleges that Hensley told him to drive out a different employee, referring to the staff member as "that nutcase."

Murray said that Mayor Michael Hancock and DIA CEO Phillip Washington declined to investigate Juarez's complaints. DIA  and the city attorney's declined to comment, and the mayor's office did not respond to Denverite's request for comment ahead of time of publication. Denverite could not reach Hensley for comment.

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