COURTESY OF PIXABAY
A man filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against WSU for allegedly violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WSLAD) in April 2017 after the man was denied an interview for employment.
Atanu Mukherjee, postdoctoral fellow at University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources, said he applied for the position of assistant professor of soil quality and sustainable soil management at WSU on April 14, 2017.
Mukherjee was not contacted for an interview, but he later found out that WSU had already selected four Caucasian candidates for the position, according to the court documents. Mukherjee was born in India.
Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin or religion. WSLAD prohibits discrimination in the same areas as well as discrimination based on creed, marital status and any sensory, mental or physical disability.
“We believe this case has no merit, and we intend to defend it aggressively,” Phil Weiler, WSU vice president for marketing and communications, said.
WSU reposted the position on Jan. 29, 2018, according to the court documents. Mukherjee reapplied on March 4, 2018. Again, WSU did not interview him “despite being well qualified.”
WSU announced it had three finalists, who were all Caucasian, on April 17, 2018, according to the court documents. WSU notified Mukherjee that Deirdre Griffin LaHue was selected for the position.
Mukherjee said that LaHue did not have a postgraduate doctoral degree at the time of the hire and did not have the same amount of research experience as him, according to the court documents.
On Aug. 12, 2018, Mukherjee complained to John Reganold, soil science & agroecology regents professor, about not getting an interview. He also complained about WSU’s decision to hire Griffin, according to the court documents.
Bonnie Dennler, human resource services employment services manager, sent an email to Mukherjee saying that WSU will conduct an investigation for his complaint, according to the court documents.
Dennler notified Mukherjee on Dec. 10, 2018 that WSU chose Griffin because she had extension experience, according to the court documents. She also mentioned that Mukherjee lacked teaching experience.
Mukherjee said he had both extension and teaching experience, which was listed in his job application, according to the court documents. In the job description, he said teaching experience was not valued more than a postgraduate doctoral degree and research experience.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington on Nov. 21.
The Daily Evergreen reached out to Mukherjee’s attorney for comment, but he did not respond in time for publication.