In an important development in the battle against diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT), a federal judge has ruled that DEI/CRT trainings and policies can be so one-sided and discriminatory that they can constitute a “hostile work environment” for white employees subjected to them.
An Obama-appointed judge ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania college professor who sued his employer over critical race theory trainings he alleged were anti-White, including one that said “White Teachers are a Problem,” according to a lawsuit.
A former professor at Penn State Abington, Zack De Piero, sued for race discrimination after he was allegedly subjected to training that the English language is racist and the embodiment of “White supremacy,” along with additional tirades against White people in professional development sessions and meetings, according to a lawsuit.
Apparently, this caused De Piero significant trauma:
“There’s a constant ticker tape, like a newsreel. I see, I hear that disgusting evil phrase. ‘White teachers are a problem,’” he said. “I wish I could get it out of my head, but I can’t.”
“I still wake up with this stuff. I still go to bed with this stuff. It still bothers me. It’s changed me in a lot of ways. You often hear that hardship leads to greater character. While that might be true, it certainly comes at a cost,” he said.
So, after resigning his professorship at Penn State, De Piero brought suit against the university in June of last year, in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (HQ in Philadelphia). The case was assigned to federal Judge Wendy Beetlestone, who was appointed to the federal bench by Barack Obama in 2014.
Penn State’s first action in the case was to file a Motion to Dismiss, which Judge Beetlestone recently denied.
Fox Digital summarizes:
Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled on Jan. 11 that Professor De Piero had solid grounds to proceed in his race discrimination lawsuit despite Penn State’s request for it to be dismissed.
Beetlestone said that discussing the “influence of racism on our society does not violate federal law.” But when considering whether to allow the professor’s suit to progress, she considered the type of CRT training used at Penn State Abington.
“Training on concepts such as… critical race theory can contribute positively… to form a healthy and inclusive working environment,” she said. “But the way these conversations are carried out in the workplace matters: When employers talk about race — any race — with a constant drumbeat of essentialist, deterministic, and negative language, they risk liability under federal law.”
A review of the Court’s Order Denying Dismissal reveals serious allegations:
De Piero describes a series of university-sanctioned professional development meetings and comments from supervisors that addressed racial issues in sweeping, absolute terms. First, he alleges that [Penn State] instructed him to incorporate race into his grading… To avoid being tarred as a racist, then, De Piero alleges that he had to discard his own race-neutral grading rubric and instead “penalize students academically on the basis of their race.”
This occurred before the George Floyd hysteria in 2020; after that, things allegedly got exponentially worse:
According to De Piero, this atmosphere only became more heated after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Amidst the mass protest movement that erupted that summer, Defendant Damian Fernandez, then-Chancellor of Penn State Abington, “called all faculty and staff” to join a “Conversation on Racial Climate” on Zoom. Defendant Alina Wong, Assistant Vice Provost for Educational Equity, hosted the event. De Piero “experience[d] discomfort” when, in a discussion about the scope of systemic racism, Wong “led the faculty in a breathing exercise in which she instructed the ‘White and non-Black people of color to hold it just a little longer—to feel [George Floyd’s] pain.’”…Also, Defendant Aneesah Smith, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, sent an email to all employees “calling on white people” to “feel terrible,” about their “own internalized white supremacy,” and to “hold other white people accountable.”
De Piero further alleges that he then had to sit through three more events that singled out white instructors. First, [De Piero’s supervisor, Defendant Liliana Naydan, Chair of the English Department] and another professor led one of a series of monthly professional development meetings, which, as a full-time member of the writing faculty, De Piero was “expected to attend.” In the workshop, which was on “multiculturalism,” the facilitators presented examples of problematic comments that a teacher could make to a student; every hypothetical faculty member was white. Next, in a training video called “White Teachers Are a Problem,” the training’s facilitator intimated that “white colleagues” should feel like “the problem.” The facilitator encouraged viewers to “feel uncomfortable” about race. Naydan and another colleague had hyped the video repeatedly. Third, Naydan “imposed” on the writing faculty a “presentation and dialogue about critical race theory and antiracism” that attacked “race neutrality, equal opportunity, objectivity, colorblindness, and merit” and condemned “white self-interest.”
Did you catch that? The Chair of a major university’s English Department allegedly decries, among other things, “equal opportunity,” “objectivity,” and “merit.” Scary, if the allegation is true.
2021 brought more of the same. At an “Antiracism pedagogy meeting” in early January, Naydan said that she was “thinking about grading as an antiracist act,” which De Piero took to mean that teachers “must apply different grading standards on the basis of race.” That spring, the department put on another training presentation about “White Language Supremacy” as well.”
Honestly, I cannot fathom why or how anyone would attend or work at a university under these conditions.
So De Piero complained to Penn State. And did they fix the problem? No, they allegedly blamed De Piero:
Defendant Carmen Borges, Associate Director of [Penn State’s Affirmative Action Office (“AAO”)], asked to meet with De Piero to discuss his [Complaint]. At that meeting, she responded to De Piero’s concern that he had been made to feel “humiliated, disgraced, harassed, and discriminated against,” by telling him that “[t]here is a problem with the white race” and he should “broaden [his] perspective.” “Until you get it,” she told De Piero, he should continue to attend anti-racism workshops. By November 2021, Borges had resolved De Piero’s initial complaint and had decided that no further action would be taken. She concluded that the “White Teachers are a Problem” training, “while it may be offensive to [him], does not constitute discrimination towards you as an individual and does not rise to a violation of the University’s Non-Discrimination policy.”
Judge Beetlestone disagreed:
Taken together, these allegations plausibly amount to “pervasive” harassment that…has stated a plausible claim for a hostile-work environment based on race.
To be clear, discussing in an educational environment the influence of racism on our society does not necessarily violate federal law….But the way these conversations are carried out in the workplace matters: When employers talk about race—any race,—with a constant drumbeat of essentialist, deterministic, and negative language, they risk liability under federal law.
For the reasons set forth above, [Penn State’s] Motion to Dismiss will be denied with respect to his hostile work environment theory of liability pressed under Title VII [and other federal statutes].
Fox Digital summarizes:
De Piero’s attorney at FAIR, Michael Thad Allen, reacted to the ruling, saying, “The opinion is clear that… you cannot discriminate on the basis of race by wrapping up racist stereotypes as ‘anti-racist,’ which is what Penn State did to Zack De Piero.”
The university released a statement to Fox News Digital that said, ‘Penn State does not generally comment on ongoing litigation.’
We will keep you updated as this important case winds its way through the courts.
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