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Former administrator sues university for racial discrimination

The federal civil rights acts prohibit racial discrimination in employment. The law forbids any kind of discrimination with respect to the hiring, promoting, demoting, firing or other acts affecting the terms and conditions of the job, on the basis of race or other protected employee statuses. As a federal law this applies in Michigan and every other state. An individual claiming a wrongful termination due to civil rights violations must first file a claim with the employer so the employer may investigate and take corrective action where needed.

Where the employer doesn't act or acts inadequately or improperly, the employee can file a claim with the EEOC. The EEOC is the federal agency within the U.S. Department of Justice that is charged with the responsibility of preliminary enforcement of most of the civil rights laws respecting employment. After making an investigation, the EEOC often tries to bring about a settlement by bringing both parties together for conferences and sometimes informal mediation.

Occasionally, the EEOC chooses not to support the claim filed. However, even where it does not make an agency finding of discrimination, it will issue the standard right to sue letter. Where the agency takes that stance, the effect of that procedure will have little or no impact on the lawsuit.

It's not unusual for a claimant to obtain a recovery despite not having EEOC preliminary support. In one recent case, a former administrator at Notre Dame University filed a lawsuit for employment discrimination against the university. He did this after receiving an EEOC statement that the agency was "unable to conclude" that there were violations of the civil rights statutes.

The former administrator was very vocal after racially inflammatory items were put in the mailboxes of African American student groups. He alleges asking the university to investigate and to develop a plan to address racism at the university. Instead of receiving a promotion that he was also requesting, the university demoted him after 13 years of employment, according to the suit. In Michigan and elsewhere, a case in this posture will now enter into the discovery and motions phases of the case. It can settle at any time if the parties come to an agreement.

Source: ABC 57 News, Notre Dame sued by former employee for alleged racial discrimination, Jessie McDonough, Dec. 2, 2013

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