A former UCLA senior director of marketing is suing the University of California Board of Regents, alleging he was paid less and denied a position he sought because he is Muslim and fired when he complained of discrimination and took medical leave.
Ali Abbassi’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges race discrimination and harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment and retaliation, hostile work environment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He does not have a specific claim for wrongful termination.
A UCLA representative could not be immediately reached for comment on the suit, which was filed Thursday. Abbassi is seeking at least $1 million in damages.
“Throughout his employment, plaintiff made numerous complaints about racial discrimination and yet defendant failed to do anything about the discrimination,” the suit alleges.
Abbassi had two MBAs when he was hired in April 2011 to a position with UCLA’s Extension Services at a starting salary of $67,000, according to his court papers. In December 2016, Abbassi’s title was changed to director of marketing strategy, but his salary was disproportionately less than his non-Muslim colleagues despite his increase in job responsibility, the suit alleges.
Abbassi claim shis duties were the same as those of a department chief, but UCLA refused to reclassify his job and give him a salary increase despite promises to do so. He had turned down other positions available outside of UCLA because of the commitments UCLA made to him regarding salary and job reclassification, according to his court papers.
Abbassi’s title was changed in November 2018 to senior director of marketing and he obtained a slight annual salary increase to $127,000, but he was still receiving less than colleagues in comparable positions despite having better qualifications, the suit says.
Abbassi, who complained about the alleged discrimination, took part in a financial audit in which he reported irregularities, according to the lawsuit. In responise, UCLA cut off his access to the finance program he used to carry out his duties and began interviewing candidates for a job he had been promised without giving him an interview or chance to apply, the suit alleges.
Abbassi also alleges he endured ongoing racial discrimination and discriminatory comments and was subjected to remarks that ridiculed him in front of his co-workers. He says he eventually went on disability stress leave and continues to suffer “severe and profound pain and emotional distress, anxiety, depression, headaches, tension and other physical ailments.”
Abbassi alleges he was fired in retaliation for his complaints about his treatment and for taking medical leave, but the suit does not state when the termination occurred.