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Judy Greenwald

Kansas State University racial discrimination case reinstated

March 19, 2014 - 3:00pm


An appellate court has reinstated a racial discrimination case against Kansas State University in which a Hispanic employee charges he continued to be harassed by a supervisor even after an internal investigation concluded his complaint was justified.

Edwin Asebedo said that while he was employed with Manhattan, Kan.-based Kansas State University's central mail services department, he complained that his supervisor and other employees used racial slurs and other derogatory slurs against him, according to Monday's ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in Edwin Asebedo v. Kansas State University.

Mr. Asebedo said even after the university's investigation found in his favor and against the supervisor, the harassing behavior continued and that he experienced retaliation. He then filed another internal complaint. The university's investigation concluded there was no retaliation, but the supervisor continued to create a hostile work environment, according to the ruling.

Although the university disciplined the supervisor, Mr. Asebedo believed the discipline was inadequate, said the ruling. He then filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., charging the university with race discrimination and retaliation.

The federal court dismissed both charges, stating he had failed to set forth sufficient acts of discrimination or retaliation.

Repeatedly subjected to harassment

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit unanimously disagreed with respect to dismissal of the racial discrimination charge. Although the facts are “sparse,” Mr. Asebedo “is a member of a protected class, and he was repeatedly subjected to unwelcome harassment by his supervisor based on his race,” said the ruling.

“Mr. Asebedo could have set forth additional facts to plausibly demonstrate that his harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment” the ruling added. “Importantly, however, he did plead that (the university's) own investigations concluded, twice, that Mr. Asebedo's supervisor had created a hostile work environment in violation of (the university's) anti-discrimination policies.

“He also pleaded that in one instance, a university official pressured him to withdraw his report of harassment. Taken together, the amended complaint's factual allegations state a plausible Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) work environment claim,” said the ruling, in remanding the racial discrimination charge to the lower court.

However, the appeals court did uphold dismissal of the retaliation claim. “Mr. Asebedo's complaint is devoid of any facts that would establish a causal connection between his complaints and the allegedly retaliatory actions,” it states.

 



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