Pennsylvania Record

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lawsuit against Bloomsburg not rare, but might include 'novel' issue, attorney says

By Emma Gallimore | Mar 23, 2016

HARRISBURG - Lawsuits filed by professors who allege discrimination on the part of their employer aren't uncommon, as a recent suit against Bloomsburg University shows, the former lawyer for the American Association for University Professor says.

The plaintiff in the case, Srinivas Nowduri, says he was denied tenure as part of discrimination he felt at Bloomsburg.

Earning tenure allows a faculty member more freedom in teaching, research and publication and creates a more stable job environment.

“I would have to say there are on any given week or two there are likely to be several such cases,” said Robert M. O’Neil, former general counsel for the AAUP said.

Nowduri, a resident of Toronto, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Feb 22. The alleged discrimination took place in May 2013, when Nowduri, then an associate professor at Bloomsburg, was denied tenure after the school alleged that that he had tampered with his teaching evaluations.

According to case documents, this allegation was based on the testimony of two other faculty members who said that the same handwriting appeared on multiple evaluations. Nowduri wanted to have the evaluations examined by an expert, but the school allegedly stopped him from doing so.

“The one issue that might be novel is the claim that, in effect, he was told by the institutional lawyers, the defendants, that he could not access the services of a handwriting expert for this purpose," O'Neill said.

When Nowduri came up for tenure review, he was unable to dispute the university’s assertion that he had manipulated his evaluations. Because of this, he was denied the possibility of tenure.

In court documents, Nowduri alleges that the university denied him tenure on the basis of his race and national origin, though the exact details of this allegation are not described.

Nowduri first filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commision on May 7, 2013. After exhausting all administrative remedies, he filed the court case to see a judicial remedy.

He is seeking damages for discrimination on the basis of race and national origin as well as for unlawful retaliation.

“There would have to be essentially differential treatment imposed by the institution in order to generate a valid claim of either gender or race discrimination,” O’Neil said.

If Nowduri can prove that the school did in fact block him from seeking the services of a handwriting expert to assess his evaluations, that may help him prove his discrimination case, O’Neil said.

Nowduri is also seeking pay and benefits lost due to the action such as raises and benefits as well as actual damages, damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages, in addition to legal fees. Finally, he has asked that the court consider ordering his reinstatement.

He is being represented by attorneys Timothy M. Kolman, Wayne A. Ely and W. Charles Sipio of Kolman Ely PC in Penndel.

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