Washington State University has agreed to pay $650,000 to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by two former employees of Chinese descent. The settlement will pay $325,000 each to Dr. Ying Li and her husband, Lizhong Yang. It also calls on the school to enact policies to prevent future discrimination. The Plaintiffs in the case, filed in federal court, contended that while working in WSU’s Laboratory for Bioanalysis and Biotechnology, they were subjected to overt discrimination by the lab supervisor based on their race and national origin.
The two employees said they were precluded from speaking Chinese at work and during breaks. After complaining, they said, they were segregated into seating arrangements with other non-white employees and excluded from numerous lab meetings. The lab supervisor accused of discrimination is “in the process of separating from the university,” WSU said in a news release. Dr. Li worked at WSU for nine years and Yang worked there six years. Both resigned when the discriminatory conduct would not stop.
The financial terms of the settlement were agreed to in March, but an investigation and negotiations with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only concluded last month. It appears that WSU promptly and thoroughly investigated the allegations. As a result, a university-wide anti-discrimination training program has been instituted, which is now mandatory for all employees. The University cooperated with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It has now fully resolved this matter with both the former employees and with the EEOC.
But the EEOC concluded there was reasonable cause to believe that Dr. Li, Yang, and other Asian employees of the lab, were subjected to an illegal hostile work environment consisting of race and national origin harassment. As part of the resolution, WSU signed an agreement with EEOC allowing that agency to monitor the lab for two years to ensure an environment free of discrimination. It was unfortunate that Dr. Li and Mr. Yang had to enforce their legal rights. But when they did, WSU compensated the Plaintiffs fairly and the University is now working with the federal government to prevent this from happening in the future. Scott Blankenship, a lawyer with The Blankenship law firm, a premier litigation firm in Seattle, who represented the Plaintiffs in the case, had this to say:
Dr. Li and Mr. Yang came to America from China expecting to live the American dream, not expecting to see bias and prejudice at a progressive institution like WSU.
Their lawyer did a very good job for the Plaintiffs in this case. To the University’s credit, it appears it did the right thing, but only because of the lawsuit. I hope that those in charge of University affairs learned a lesson. I have to believe that they did.
Source: Associated Press
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