MALDEF Sues New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) for Retaliating Against Whistleblower
Employee fired in retaliation for speaking out against unconstitutional Foreign National Residency Recertification Program
SANTA FE, NM – Today, MALDEF and the New Mexico law firm of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan (Freedman Boyd) filed suit in a Santa Fe District Court against the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Laura A. Montaño, a whistleblower and former employee, challenging the unlawful and retaliatory termination of the whistleblower’s employment. Ms. Montaño voiced her objections to her MVD supervisor about several improper and discriminatory acts carried out as part of the MVD's "Foreign National Residency Recertification Program," and was terminated soon thereafter in August of 2011.
The many improper acts alleged by the whistleblower include: MVD's refusal to allow a Latina mother who was in labor to reschedule her appointment; the cancellation of driver’s licenses for failure to provide information not required by state regulations; MVD’s refusal to provide adequate Spanish language speaking services for Spanish-speaking drivers; and a commitment by MVD to cancel as many ID cards and driver's licenses as possible. MALDEF filed the lawsuit under the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act and protections against retaliation under common law.
David Hinojosa, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel, stated: "There is no justification for the recertification program and there is no justification for the retaliation. MVD must now pay for its blatant disregard of a New Mexico worker’s actions to stand up for those discriminated against under MVD's illegal program."
"It was not enough for the MVD to disregard the rights of 10,000 foreign nationals. It took the extra step of firing a woman who spoke out against the discriminatory implementation of the program. But New Mexico law protects employees who blow the whistle on discrimination in the workplace, and we are here to help the plaintiff enforce that law," added Rebecca Couto, MALDEF Staff Attorney and lead counsel in the case.
Under the "Foreign National Residency Certification Program," enacted in July of 2011 by the Secretary of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, Demesia Padilla, the MVD singled out 10,000 individuals based on whether they were born in the United States and commanded them to come before the MVD to show papers previously provided in acquiring licenses or identification cards from the State, or else their licenses would be canceled. The MVD targeted these foreign nationals, who were largely Latino, despite having no evidence that they committed any wrongdoing in acquiring their licenses or id cards.
In a separate suit filed by MALDEF and Freedman Boyd in August of 2011, a Santa Fe State District Court held the Foreign National Residency Certification Program to be constitutionally suspect and temporarily suspended the program until a trial on the merits can be held.
David Urias, a New Mexico attorney with the Freedman Boyd law firm and a former MALDEF attorney, stated, “The people of New Mexico should be concerned with the MVD’s extraordinary waste of state resources. Rather than being used to improve education or increase jobs in New Mexico, scarce state funds are spent by the MVD on unconstitutional programs like the Foreign National Recertification Program.”
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.
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