Volume 81, Number 13ß | August 25 -31, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

N.Y.U. race discrimination suit

By Albert Amateau

New York University has been ordered to pay $210,000 to an African immigrant who worked in Bobst Library to settle a federal lawsuit that alleges a Bobst mailroom supervisor harassed the victim, calling him “monkey” and “gorilla” and telling him, “Go back to your cage.”

Osei Agyemang was subjected to the insults from July 2007 through January 2009, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“N.Y.U. took months to investigate the employee’s many complaints and then took virtually no corrective action, even after being alerted that the supervisor had retaliated against him, such as fabricating grounds for discipline,” the commission said in an Aug. 16 statement.

The harassment ended only after Agyemang’s request for a transfer was granted. John Beckman, N.Y.U. spokesperson, said, “Such behavior is extremely rare here and totally at odds with the spirit of diversity and tolerance for which N.Y.U. is rightly known.”

Beckman added, “The case goes back some years and involves the actions of an employee who is no longer with the university.”

Neither the supervisor nor Agyemang work for N.Y.U. any longer.

Under the settlement, the university will pay the victim $210,000 for lost wages and compensation for the emotional distress he experienced. N.Y.U. will take several actions to prevent and address discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

The actions include implementing enhanced policies and complaint procedures, designating an equal opportunity coordinator to monitor the university’s compliance with anti-discrimination laws, conducting training sessions for employees and supervisors, and keeping records — to be reviewed by the commission — of responses to any future complaints.

“This suit shows that ugly harassment and retaliation can happen anywhere, even at a prestigious university,” said Gillian L. Thomas, trial attorney for the commission’s New York district office.

The university was found, in this case, to have violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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