Charges of rampant discrimination rocked the University of California San Diego campus last year. The infamous “Compton Cookout,” where Black History Month was mocked, made headlines all over the country. Additionally, the school has had problems with other racially charged incidents which has lead to heightened tensions on campus.
The university and student representatives ultimately agreed to 19 separate corrective actions, addressing discrimination and seeking to calm the unrest. Among the measures included in what has now become known as the “March 4 agreements” was the creation of a new job at UCSD specifically devoted to raising funds to support diversity programs on campus.
The woman that was hired for that position has now filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination of her position. She was fired in May, after just 10 months on the job.
Her lawsuit details instances of racial and sexual discrimination within the development department where she worked, including racially insensitive comments about minorities, and derogatory remarks about gays and lesbians. She claims that her department colleagues appeared to have dismissed the significance of the Compton Cookout, as well as the reaction of UCSD students.
Her complaint also describes a confrontation, believed to be the catalyst to her dismissal, with the university chancellor. The altercation occurred during an April committee meeting of a group created to monitor progress of the March 4 agreements.
At that meeting, the woman told the university chancellor that she did not feel that UCSD supported her fundraising efforts, despite the school making a public commitment for improvement and change. She alleges the chancellor interrupted her in mid-sentence in front of the other committee members and said “that’s enough,” “sit down,” and “that’s it.”
The lawsuit alleges a retaliatory discharge, claiming she was fired from her position for speaking up at the meeting with the chancellor. Further, UCSD is accused of treating the position as a false display of intent, with no real interest in actively changing the school’s reputation by supporting the woman’s fundraising efforts. The university would only say it does not comment on pending litigation.
The matter will now proceed to trial, and the university will have to defend itself against the new charges of discrimination and retaliatory firing. Working for an employer who is unsupportive can be difficult. If an employee is fired for vocalizing a disparity in the workplace to an employer, the outcome could be considered a retaliatory action. A California attorney experienced in wrongful termination and discrimination may offer guidance to those seeking to enforce their legal rights.
Source: SignOn San Diego, “Diversity fundraiser sues UCSD over firing,” Pat Flynn, July 27, 2011