Author Gina Nahai sues USC alleging job discrimination

gina-nahai-jj.jpgLos Angeles author Gina Nahai has sued USC over not promoting her to assistant professor of the Master of Professional Writing Program where she has been a lecturer. According to the workplace discrimination and harassment suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in September, Nahai alleges that USC has “derailed [her] career, livelihood, and spirit” and that she has been “systematically discriminated against because she is an Iranian Jew.” The suit names the university and Brighde Mullins, an award-winning playwright and poet who serves as director of the USC Dornsife’s Master of Professional Writing program. USC tells the Jewish Journal that her claims are "wholly without merit."

From the Jewish Journal piece (Noted: Nahai is a columnist for the weekly.)

In the suit, Nahai claims that Mullins, her department superior since 2008, has unfairly and unceremoniously denied her opportunities for advancement.

Nahai is herself a graduate of USC’s Master of Professional Writing Program and has been an adjunct professor in the department since 1999. In the suit, she claims she has been seeking a promotion at least since 2008, when Mullins arrived, but says she has been repeatedly “denied the status of assistant professor despite her accomplishments” and that instead of advancing, Mullins reduced her role and teaching responsibilities.

She further charges that Mullins practiced “open contempt,” “hostility” and “derision,” which included off-color remarks and references to her faith and ethnic background.

By e-mail, Kelly Bendell, who works in the USC’s Office of the General Counsel, dismissed Nahai’s allegations.

“The university is committed to a teaching and learning environment free from unlawful harassment and discrimination,” Bendell wrote. “Ms. Nahai had already made her claims known to the university prior to filing this lawsuit, and the university has determined that they are wholly without merit. The university is proud of its diverse and talented MPW faculty, including its director, Ms. Brighde Mullins, and will vigorously defend against these unfounded allegations.”

The specific allegations are disturbing if true. Nahai's suit says that at their first meeting, Mullins made veiled references to Iranian Jews as “you people” and later allegedly said, “I’m a playwright and a poet; I don’t need to know about Iranians and Arabs.” Here's a story in September from Courthouse News.

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