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NYU pays major settlement in racial discrimination suit

By Julie Cannold, CNN
  • EEOC says supervisor called African employe a "monkey" and "gorilla"
  • NYU says situations like this are few and far between and do not represent the reputation of the school

New York (CNN) -- New York University will pay $210,000 to settle a harassment lawsuit after an employee was subjected to racial slurs and insults, according to a statement from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC, the supervisor of the mailroom at NYU's Bobst Library repeatedly referred to an African employee as a "monkey" and "gorilla," lodged insults such as "do you want a banana?" and "go back to your cage," and referred to the employees accented English as "gibberish."

The EEOC filed the lawsuit against NYU in September 2010 after the university allegedly took months to investigate the employee's complaints and took basically no action to fix the problem, according to EEOC's release.

"This suit shows that ugly harassment and retaliation can happen anywhere, even at a prestigious university," said Gillian Thomas, an attorney for the EEOC in New York. "Under this settlement, the victim will be compensated for the mistreatment he suffered, and NYU will be required to do much better by its employees in the future."

NYU says situations like this are few and far between and do not represent the reputation of the school. "This case goes back some years and involves the actions of an employee who is no longer with the University," NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement. "Such behavior is extremely rare here and totally at odds with (the) spirit of diversity and tolerance for which NYU is rightly known."

NYU has to pay the employee $210,000 in lost wages and compensation for emotional distress as well as implement new policies to ensure this discrimination does not happen again, according to the EEOC. These actions include enhancing anti-harassment policies, conducting equal employment opportunity training sessions for staff, and maintaining records of complaints and responses, which will be regularly reviewed by the EEOC.