Duquesne faces 4th discrimination lawsuit since 2010
Major Gifts Officer claims racial, age prejudice
Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011 00:11
A former Duquesne employee filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court Oct. 19, the fourth discrimination suit to be filed against the University since July 2010.
Cosette Grant, a former University major gifts officer, is suing the University because she was fired in October 2010, she says, because she is black. According to the complaint, Grant also was mistreated by potential donors because she is black.
Grant, who was hired in 2008, brought these concerns about discrimination to her supervisor James Miller, associate vice president for Alumni Relations and Development, who said he would remove the discriminatory donors from Grant's calling list and replace them with new ones. But, the complaint claims, Miller never did this.
Grant also received a poor performance review from Miller on Sept. 25, 2010 that threatened her with termination, the lawsuit said. The complaint claims that Grant's failure to meet performance goals was not her fault, but rather Miller's fault for failing to replace the discriminatory donors on her calling list.
Grant is represented by local lawyers James B. Lieber, of Lieber & Hammer, and Alan H. Perer, of Swensen, Perer and Kontos.
University counsel Steve Zoffer denied that Grant's race played any factor in her firing.
"Ms. Grant's termination is solely a result of her lack of performance in connection with her job responsibilities," Zoffer said.
The complaint also states that Carrie Matesevac Collins, executive director of Gift Planning/Stewardship, discriminated against Grant because she wore African-style clothing.
"At a Department meeting in February 2009, while discussing the office dress code … Ms. Collins made a point of stating ‘no one should wear that African print stuff to work, even on Fridays' while looking directly at Dr. Grant, who was wearing an African print dress pant," the complaint said.
The complaint states that Grant consistently brought these concerns to her superiors, but no disciplinary action was ever taken against Miller or Collins. Instead, the complaint states, Grant was fired.
"During the meeting on October 26, 2010, Mr. Miller told Dr. Grant that she had been terminated and, during this conversation, he specifically referenced her recent complaints of discrimination with the Affirmative Action Office," the lawsuit said.
Zoffer said the University denies all of Grant's claims.
"The allegations in the complaint are false [and] are not able to be supported by our investigation," Zoffer said.
Grant's lawsuit is not the only pending racial discrimination lawsuit against the University.
Kellen McClendon, a law professor, filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit on Oct. 12, 2010, claiming Provost Ralph Pearson and University president Charles Dougherty did not properly consider him for the deanship in 2004. The complaint claims that Pearson called McClendon a "token" black candidate, which the complaint cites as a derogatory term for a person of racial minority.
Vanessa Browne-Barbour, another law professor, also filed a federal discrimination lawsuit in July 2010. Browne-Barbour claims in her lawsuit that she was not considered for the interim dean position following the 2008 ousting of former dean Don Guter because she is black and a woman. Ken Gormley, a white male, was appointed interim dean and eventually named law dean.
Alice Stewart, a former clinical administrator in the law school also sued the University for discrimination in July 2007. Stewart claimed she was the victim of sexual harassment by Gormley and was discriminated against when she filed a complaint. Stewart's lawsuit was settled out of court in December 2010.