A former Penn employee and alumna recently filed a lawsuit against the University of Pennsylvania due to employment discrimination on the basis of national origin.
Ya-Chuan Yu, a 2006 Graduate School of Education and 2008 and 2009 Wharton graduate, was employed as a lecturer at the Lauder Institute. She alleged in her Jan. 9 suit that she was denied certain opportunities because of her nationality.
Yu’s is the first employment discrimination case filed against the University in 2013. There were three other cases filed under 42 U.S.C. §2000 due to employment discrimination on the basis of race or national origin, among other issues, in the past year. Two of these cases were filed against the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and the other was filed against the Trustees.
Yu, who is of Taiwanese descent, stated in the complaint she submitted to the court that she was the “subject of direct discrimination” when her Chinese manager targeted her for “undue and unfounded criticism of her job performance.”
One specific instance that she noted in the complaint was when she was “passed over and excluded from summer opportunities in China specifically on account of her Taiwan passport” although those opportunities were offered to “new hires whose sole differentiating feature was that they were not from Taiwan.”
Yu further alleged that she was told, “as a Taiwan Chinese person she ought to be more obedient.”
Her complaint went on to say that her employment was terminated for “false and pre-textual reasons” and that “any ‘reasonable grounds’ asserted … by Penn are a pretext to avoid liability.”
Yu declined to comment on the case due to the advice of her legal counsel. The University also declined to comment.
According to the complaint, her termination came after several years of harassment and discrimination and after she complained of the unequal treatment being shown to her and other foreign employees.
A number of other University employees became involved in this matter, including 1973 School of Arts and Sciences graduate Gulbun O’Connor, who was the associate ombudsman at the time, Yu’s attorney Michael Welsh confirmed in an email.
O’Connor did not respond to a request for a comment. Welsh also stated that he could not comment on a pending case in federal court. According to her LinkedIn profile, Yu was a member of the faculty of the Lauder Institute Chinese Program from September of 2005 to June of 2011.
Penn no longer employs her, confirmed Welsh.
Before filing in federal court, Yu first filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Philadelphia. She was granted a Right-To-Sue Notice by the EEOC on Oct. 9, 2012, according to the complaint.
The plaintiff is now requesting a trial by jury and compensatory damages including back pay, front pay — money awarded for lost compensation between the period of judgment and reinstatement, or instead of reinstatement — and attorney fees. The monetary amount will be determined at trial.
Her action was brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, alleging retaliation — that Yu’s managers at Penn retaliated against her after she asserted her statutory right to file a complaint of unfair treatment — and employment discrimination on the basis of national origin.
The University must submit a response to Yu’s complaint by Feb. 28.