Former Drexel employee sues university for discrimination and retaliatory discharge

By Jon Campisi | Jan 31, 2012

A black professor who was hired in January 2010 to work as a project coordinator at Drexel University’s PA Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence, and was terminated from her position three months later, is suing her former employer in federal court, alleging she was fired in retaliation for speaking out against racially discriminatory treatment she allegedly received while on the job.

Attorney Thomas W. Moore III filed the job discrimination lawsuit Jan. 30 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Clifton Heights, Pa. resident Judith Silva.

The defendant named in the lawsuit is Philadelphia-based Drexel University.

In her complaint, Silva, who was hired on Jan. 8, 2010, claims that despite being fully qualified for the position and receiving high job performance marks, she was terminated in the spring of 2010 in response to her reporting of disparate criticisms and hostile work environment.

Silva had complained about a number of things. She alleged that she never received compensation during her first two weeks on the job, the lawsuit states.

Silva later complained that one superior would complain about her job performance, claiming that Silva took “too long to grasp basic job tasks.”

The supervisor also complained about Silva in the presence of other employees, causing Silva to experience embarrassment and humiliation, the suit claims.

Silva, the only black individual employed at the Center, claims in her lawsuit that the defendant’s “constant and baseless disparate criticisms of Plaintiff created a disruptive and hostile work environment for Plaintiff because of her race.”

On March 12, 2010, the Center’s co-director summoned Silva to a meeting to discuss issues Silva’s supervisor had with Silva.

It was during this meeting that Silva complained about the treatment she had been receiving by her supervisor, what the plaintiff contended was racially motivated, according to the complaint.

Two weeks after the meeting, the lawsuit states, Silva was notified that she would be terminated effective April 26, 2010.

“Plaintiff’s termination was a direct response to her reporting of the disparate criticisms and hostile work environment which Plaintiff faced, brought on by her race,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states that Silva was never the subject of any performance improvement plan, she had not committed any gross misconduct or serious negligence and she never “created any circumstances that reasonably could be determined to warrant immediate termination.”

The lawsuit claims that after Silva was terminated, two white females were hired to fill her position.

“The alleged performance problems that Defendant states as the reason for Plaintiff’s termination are a pretext for the racial discrimination of Plaintiff,” the suit states.

Silva seeks to have the university cease its policy of discriminating against employees on the basis of race.

She also seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, litigation costs and other court relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00465-PBT.

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