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UCincinnati Professor Alleges Employment Discrimination by School

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A University of Cincinnati (UC) professor has filed a lawsuit against the school alleging that officials at UC’s business school engaged in discriminatory hiring practices.

Sourushe Zandvakili, a professor and former department head of economics at UC, claims administrators at UC’s Lindner School of Business have demonstrated “a pattern of alleged discrimination” for over a decade.

Zandvakili – an Iranian-born, naturalized US citizen – has filed a 13-page complaint outlining how he was treated unfairly along with another former faculty member, alleging both were denied promotions and pay raises.

Poor Pay, Lower Position

Zandvakili’s lawsuit highlights an incident in 2010 when he was tasked with filling two tenure-track assistant professor positions for the economics department. He identified a Black female candidate to fill one of the open positions and informed then-dean David Szymanski.

Things took an abrupt turn when the dean learned the applicant was a Black woman. “After Dean Szymanski met the candidate, he told [Zandvakili] to withdraw the employment offer and claimed the university ‘no longer had the money,’” the lawsuit states.

Zandvakili referred the matter to the provost. Finally, the female candidate was hired as untenured faculty at lower pay.

Things did not improve during her time at the university and, in 2019, she was forced to resign owing to a lack of “promotional opportunities due to her race” documents state.

Following this incident, the university demoted Zandvakili from his position citing “inadequate performance” and refused to give him a pay raise.

Between 2018 and 2019, Zandvakili applied for several administrative positions within UC but claimed each time he lost out to American-born candidates.

University Statement

The university has denied the allegations outlined in Zandvakili’s complaint. 

Attorneys for the university said there had been no unlawful discrimination and asked the court to dismiss Zandvakili’s complaint. 

The university now claims it “did not violate any constitutional rights but to the extent they did, [officials’] actions were taken in good faith, were objectively reasonable, and any alleged constitutional rights were not clearly established.”

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