March 8th, 2013

A professor at Macalester College is suing her employer, alleging gender discrimination, as well as race and national origin discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

The woman is currently a full professor with tenure at the college, teaching creative writing in its English department. However, the professor claims that she was wrongfully denied several promotions over the years. The first alleged act of discrimination came in 2003, when she was passed over for an associate professor position. Although the professor was subsequently promoted to an associate professor position with full tenure in 2005, she claims she again experienced workplace discrimination when she applied for a full professor position in 2009.

The professor’s denial for a full professor position in 2009 was made be a committee comprised of the college president, provost, and four professors. The professor appealed her 2009 denial to an internal faculty appeals panel, which ultimately concluded that the committee might have materially violated a few areas outlined in the college’s faculty handbook. However, the college president responded to that finding, upholding the committee’s decision to deny the woman full professorship.

After her 2009 disappointment, the professor filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She claims that the college then retaliated against her for that filing by reducing her teaching budget and imposing institutional obstacles in her research project comparing the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers.

Lawyers for the college deny any retaliation since the professor’s EEOC filing, and they characterize the professor’s claims as lacking merit. They also note that the woman obtained a full professor position in 2011.

This post illustrates the obstacles that an employee can face in fighting workplace discrimination, as well as the difficulty in proving claims of retaliation. In this case, an experienced employment law attorney might find the appeals panel’s letter significant, as well as the fact that the college subsequently promoted the woman — but only after she resorted to an EEOC filing.

Source: themacweekly.com, “Update on Wang Ping lawsuit,” Emma WestRasmus, March 1, 2013.

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