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Leon McCalla, a former Yale lab technician, sued the University in June, alleging discrimination on the basis of race and nationality.

The case levels seven counts against Yale, including discrimination on the basis of race and nationality, hostile work environment and retaliation. The plaintiff argues that Yale violated Connecticut general statutes, as well as Title VII, a feature of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits employers from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. In addition to a trial by jury, McCalla, described in the complaint as a black man from Jamaica, is seeking monetary damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, expert witness fees, and pre-judgement interest from the University. Last week, a U.S. district court dismissed one of the seven counts, which alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“There was absolutely no discriminatory behavior in any of our dealings with the plaintiff,” said Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor. “We’re going to continue to defend vigorously against these baseless claims because there is no merit to any of the allegations.”

Citing legal counsel from his attorneys, McCalla declined to comment. As of Tuesday evening, McCalla’s lawyers, Eugene Axelrod and Michael C. McMinn of Axelrod & Associates, had not provided comment on the case.

Janet C. Hall, the United States district judge who on Oct. 26 dismissed the emotional distress accusation, argued that while McCalla alleges in his complaint that he was subject to disciplinary actions on the basis of race, he does not allege that any racially derogatory comments were made toward him.

According to court filings, McCalla served as a lab animal technician scheduler at the School of Medicine since 1989 and was the only African American in that position. McCalla alleges that Melissa Bonk, an animal resource center manager at the medical school who became his supervisor in 2013, “berated, belittled, and intentionally embarrassed [him] in front of his co-workers.”

After Bonk warned McCalla about the alleged work errors, McCalla sent a letter to Valarie Stanley, director of Yale’s Office for Equal Opportunity, citing disparate treatment, unfair criticism and warnings and a hostile work environment that adversely affected his health, the complaint states. He later met with Jamal Thomas, another Office for Equal Opportunity representative, but McCalla claims Yale took no action in response.

McCalla also claims that all three African-American lab technicians under Bonk’s supervision were reprimanded by her, while other Caucasian lab technicians and schedulers were not written up or reprimanded for work errors.

The complaint further states that in January 2016, McCalla and Bonk met with Timothy Aucoin, a generalist in Yale’s Human Resources department. But following the meeting, McCalla claims, he was suspended from work for the three days.

According to the complaint, McCalla left Yale in August 2016, under recommendation from his doctor, as a result of an increasingly hostile work environment. The complaint alleges that McCalla’s doctor sent a letter to Yale, claiming that the former lab technician had to leave the University due to stress caused by Bonk.

Bonk did not respond to request for comment.

According to Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities spokeswoman Michelle Dumas Keuler, McCalla has filed two complaints with the office. Both cases were closed and issued a release of jurisdiction, meaning that McCalla had 90 days to file in court following the release.

Yale is represented by Kevin Shea of Clendenen & Shea Attorneys at Law in this case. Shea declined to comment.

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu

  • Jess

    Hopefully this will shine some light on horrible supervisors/managers working in YARC. Bad management ruins what could otherwise be an excellent program but upper management doesn’t seem to care. Who cares if your workers are miserable, right? Well, a lot of people do.

    • Lumi Sencion

      I hope so. Almost every department at Yale is run by incompetent and mean-spirited, racist, sexist animals.

  • concerned

    Unlike Judge Janet C. Hall, I see a pattern of carefully prescribed intimidation at Yale that appears to amount to “legal” harassment in the workplace covered by Title VII. The despicable goal of this behavior could possibly encompass limiting damages settlements for victims of discrimination, and who would ever know about this profitable pattern of collusion if settlement also included a non-disclosure agreement? No wonder Yale University has been so easily able to maintain a hostile and discriminatory work environment under the law!

    • Jo

      You are so right

      • concerned

        Pay close attention. This is what a hate crime looks like.

        • Lumi Sencion

          Absolutely. Along with verbal, mental and emotional abuse. This swamp needs to be drained. Start with HR. They ignore workers consistently. Many have complained and are ignored. Smiled at, told, we hear and then nothing. Why doesn’t the YDN do an expose on Human Resource Department at Yale. There are many stories to share but workers are always shut-down with the fear of losing their jobs. Yale is uniquely diabolical in this regard.

          • Jo

            Lumi, a lot of the things management get away with at YARC is due to the careless Union Stewards they have abusing their power. The area working with management.

    • Lumi Sencion

      You are absolutely correct. This is the way Yale operates, consistently. And senior managers are never evaluated. As well, Human Resources is the most racist incompetent department at Yale. They think they’re untouchable, turning a blind eye to issues unfairly impacting and demoralizing workers. I pray Yale get a huge comeuppance soon! And please, start with the senior admin of HR and get rid of them! And then implement an evaluation system for senior managers and administrators who think they can treat everyone with little to no regard. They get away with it because they can. Incompetence rises to power at Yale, not ability or morality.

      • concerned

        Too many senior administrators continue to operate on the basis of the power handed to them in combination with their personally held ugly biases plus their cluelessness of the academic research environment. “Not what you know, who you know?” Here the sensibilities required to work successfully in direct support of advanced scientific research (which is most likely federally funded) are viciously and racially targeted through a legal sleight of hand. Thus well appointed, well-paid university officials continue to do their job and proclaim to the courts that there is no discrimination here folks.

  • ShadrachSmith

    PC management style rewards things other than performance, promotes people who have no business supervising others. PC management principles are the problem, and there is a lot of that going around.

  • Boos

    This closely mirrors my experience working at Yale adminstration which is full of incompetent bullies enabled by a spineless HR. I am planning to publish all communication to reveal the nature and extent of how depraved this place is.