Relentless, hostile racial harassment led a model employee to suffer panic attacks so intense his doctor advised him to take medical leave, the lawsuit states.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA, August 1, 2023/EINPresswire.com/ — A San Francisco State University administrator referred to a Black employee as a “runaway slave” she wanted to control, subjected him to frequent racial harassment, and eventually retaliated against him after he complained about her illegal conduct, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.
DeMauriae Vaughn was considered an exemplary employee by SFSU supervisors after he joined the university staff in 2001 as an office manager for the Advising Resource Center, and was promoted to academic advisor in 2016. Karen Rubin became his supervisor when she was hired in 2019 as ARC director.
Within just a few months, Rubin’s relentless racial harassment and hostility led to Vaughn suffering panic attacks so intense that his doctor advised him to take medical leave, the lawsuit states.
“Ms. Rubin’s repeated race-based harassment of Mr. Vaughn and other non-white SFSU employees would be indefensible anywhere, but especially at an educational institution where diversity, inclusivity, and respect for all individuals should be upheld,” said Los Angeles employment attorney Arash Sadat, a partner at Mills, Sadat, Dowlat LLP.
Rubin was unusually preoccupied by the Civil War, according to the lawsuit, and kept a portrait of Robert E. Lee in her office.
In a conversation with one of Vaughn’s co-workers — just days after being hired — Rubin referred to Vaughn as a “runaway slave,” the lawsuit states, and then went on to say she needed to get him under control the way U.S. Sen. Stephen A. Douglas had gotten runaway slaves under control. Douglas in 1850 engineered passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, which supported slaveholder’s “rights” across the country to recover escaped slaves.
In a September 2019, staff meeting, Vaughn and other staff members complained to Rubin about her hostile and racist comments, the lawsuit says. She dismissed their concerns.
In October she ordered Vaughn to personally greet Rubin every day when he arrived at work, something not required of anyone else in the department, the lawsuit states. Throughout, higher-ups at SFSU dismissed his complaints.
When his doctor in late 2019 advised Vaughn to take medical leave, a delay in paperwork resulted in him unintentionally missing work. Rubin threatened to fire him because of this absence, the lawsuit states. The harassment continued after he returned to work, the lawsuit states.
Finally, Vaughn reported Rubin’s actions to SFSU’s Equity Programs and Compliance Office and requested a department transfer out of fear of retaliation. His request was granted after six months, amidst his growing health issues related to the ongoing stress.
SFSU eventually directed an independent investigation into Vaughn’s complaints, concluding in May 2022 that Rubin harassed Vaughn based on his race. But SFSU failed to reprimand her, allowing her to continue her tenure at SFSU for several more months before she took another job.
The lawsuit accuses Rubin and the Board of Trustees of the California State University of racial discrimination and failure to prevent it, workplace harassment, and retaliation for reporting racial harassment.
The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court; Vaughn v. The Board of Trustees of the California State University, Karen Rubin, et. al; CGC-23-606874 (August 1, 2023).
Arash Sadat’s legal expertise ranges from employment discrimination to complex business litigation and contractual disputes, unfair competition and federal asset forfeiture. He is a partner at Mills Sadat Dowlat LLP of Los Angeles.