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NYU Boss Called African Man a 'Gorilla,' 'Monkey'

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 18, 2011 6:43 AM

New York University's (NYU) discrimination lawsuit has settled with a $210,000 payout to the plaintiff, an African man whose boss constantly harassed and demeaned him. An institute of higher education, NYU's lawsuit illustrates that discrimination persists even at prestigious universities.

The African plaintiff, Osei Agyemang, was an employee at the university. He worked at NYU's Bobst Library, where his supervisor continually hurled verbal insults his way.

He was called names, including "monkey" and "gorilla." His supervisor even asked him if he wanted a banana, and made fun of his accent, calling it "gibberish," the New York Daily News reports.

The EEOC filed suit on behalf of the man, and settled for $210,000 which included compensation for lost wages and emotional distress. NYU has also been ordered to implement new procedures to ensure similar discrimination will not occur in the future.

Businesses should take note of NYU's settlement, and ensure that employees aren't facing discrimination or harassment.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination on the basis of race or national origin is against the law. Employers should note that discrimination can include discriminatory recruiting, hiring and advancement practices, as well as harassment of employees like in Agyemang's case.

And, if an employee is the one who is discriminating against another employee, the employer should take steps to stop the situation. The law protects employees from harassment from fellow employees, customers and clients. Failure to address a claim could lead to litigation, like in NYU's case.

NYU's lawsuit, in part, cited the fact that the university was slow in addressing the problem. Agyemang had previously complained to NYU, but the discrimination and harassment persisted.

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