Responding to a lawsuit filed by a former senior director of marketing who alleges he was subjected to disparate treatment because he is Muslim, UCLA says it is committed to maintaining a work environment free of such conditions.
Ali Abbassi’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the UC Regents 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.
“UCLA has not yet received notice of the lawsuit,” according to a statement issued by the university. “While we don’t comment on pending litigation, UCLA remains committed to a learning and working environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.”
Abbassi seeks at least $1 million in damages in the suit filed Thursday.
“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 claims his 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 an 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 response, 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.
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