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PRESS RELEASE
8-16-11

NYU Settles EEOC Race and National Origin Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

University to Pay $210,000 to African Employee Called ‘Monkey’ and ‘Gorilla’ by Supervisor

NEW YORK – New York University, the largest private university in the United States and one of New York City’s ten biggest employers, will pay $210,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race and national origin harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had alleged that NYU violated federal law by subjecting an African-born employee to a hostile work environment that included degrading verbal harassment.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the supervisor of the mailroom in NYU’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library regularly addressed the employee, a native of Ghana, with slurs such as “monkey” and “gorilla” and insults such as “go back to your cage” and “do you want a banana?” The supervisor also derided the employee’s accented English as “gibberish,” and expressed hostility toward immigrants, particularly Africans. NYU 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 by fabricating grounds for discipline.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (10-CV-7399) (LTS) (JCF) in September 2010 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the settlement, which was entered by the court as a consent decree and will remain in place for three years, NYU will pay the employee $210,000 in lost wages and compensation for the emotional distress he experienced as a result of the unlawful conduct. It also will take several actions to prevent and address discrimination, harassment and retaliation, such as implementing university-wide enhanced policies and complaint procedures; designating an equal employment opportunity (EEO) coordinator to monitor NYU’s compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws; conducting in-person, comprehensive EEO training sessions for employees, supervisors, and HR staff; and maintaining records, to be reviewed by the EEOC, of its responses to future employee complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

“This suit shows that ugly harassment and retaliation can happen anywhere, even at a prestigious university,” said Gillian L. Thomas, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Under this settlement, the victim will be compensated for the mistreatment he suffered, and NYU will be required to do much better by its employees in the future.”

Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney of the EEOC New York District Office, added, “Harassment based on national origin and race is still all too common in today’s workplace. EEOC will continue to aggressively expose and remedy such conduct, no matter where it occurs. No employer is above the law.”

The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.