A professor of public policy and engineering at USC sued the university Thursday, alleging harassment and discrimination based on his Egyptian descent and religion.
Dr. Ali Abbas alleges in his suit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, that he received lower pay than his predecessor, was the target of insulting text messages and felt that USC did nothing to protect him.
In a statement, USC said that it will review the complaint in detail when it is received.
“Discrimination and harassment have no place at USC,” the university’s statement reads. “We do not tolerate behavior that violates our policy and take appropriate disciplinary action when it does.”
Abbas, a professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and of Public Policy, is also director of the university’s CREATE Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to his court papers.
He describes himself as a practicing Muslim who discovered, after accepting the job at USC, that his salary and administrative stipend were “substantially lower than those of his predecessor,” who was not a member of Abbas’ federally protected class.
Abbas alleges he was “the target of belittling jokes” relating to his Middle Eastern descent and membership in the protected class, and, when the comments were relayed to USC administration, the university “did nothing in response.”
The suit alleges that when Abbas expressed pride in both his Egyptian origin and United States citizenship, USC employees responded with, “So you think you’re African-American, huh?”
In addition, the stereotype of the haggling Middle Eastern man was invoked throughout his employment, Abbas alleges. In response to his concerns regarding wasteful spending of DHS and college funds, Abbas alleges he was teased with the response, “Why do you like haggling?”