University lost motion to dismiss ‘hostile work environment’ claim
A white professor’s racial-discrimination lawsuit against Pennsylvania State University-Abington can move forward, a federal judge ruled recently.
District Judge Wendy Beetlestone ruled Friday against a motion to dismiss from the Abington public university. Penn State sought to stop former English Professor Zack De Piero’s lawsuit that alleged he was “individually singled out for ridicule and humiliation because of the color of his skin,” according to the original filing.
De Piero’s (pictured) attorneys argued that mandatory diversity trainings and race-based grading constituted a “hostile work environment, in violation of Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” that forced De Piero to resign, according to the ruling’s summary.
Grading students on the basis of race drew support from nearly 400 Penn State faculty from various campuses. The letter said the lawsuit is one example of “attacks from reactionaries who claim that curricula, programs, and initiatives aimed at promoting inclusivity and equity are racist and divisive,” as previously reported by The College Fix.
The judge ruled against De Piero’s claims he was subjected to an “adverse employment action,” but ruled his racial hostility claims could proceed.
One of the mandatory trainings, as detailed in the ruling, included a “breathing exercise” after the murder of George Floyd, where non-black employees were asked to hold their breath “just a little longer – to feel the pain.”
Judge Beetlestone said university “white privilege” and other trainings “can contribute positively to nuanced, important conversations about how to form a healthy and inclusive working environment. Indeed, this is particularly so in an educational institution. ”
However, employers “risk liability under federal law” when race discussions use “a constant drumbeat of essentialist, deterministic, and negative language.”
The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, which is representing De Piero, celebrating the ruling.
“We are thrilled that the court reached the correct decision on Professor De Piero’s discrimination claim,” said FAIR Executive Director @Monica_Y_Harris. “Employers must be held responsible when they subject their employees to racially-hostile work environments, and academic…
— Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) (@fairforall_org) January 12, 2024
“We are thrilled that the court reached the correct decision on Professor De Piero’s discrimination claim,” Executive Director Monica Harris stated.
FAIR also shared a quote from De Piero.
“Penn State’s incessant and inflammatory use of so-called ‘antiracism’ rhetoric and ‘antiracist’ training was an assault on everyone’s dignity — and I imagine that it had the same impact on others who likely self-censored their thoughts out of fear of retaliation,” De Piero stated.
“I hope my former colleagues will now feel empowered to exercise their voice, and I hope the institution will take significant actions toward improving its workplace culture and restoring the public’s trust.”
IMAGE: Fox News