New York University, the largest private university in the United States, has agreed to pay an African employee a $210,000 settlement in a racial and national origin harassment suit. Osei Agyemang, who is from Ghana, filed a case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010 that described him being verbally abused by a former mail room supervisor of NYU’s Bobst Library. Agyemang worked there under these hostile conditions between July 2007 and January 2009, during which time he was repeatedly called a ‘gorilla’ among other insults. Agyemang attempted to find relief from these abuses through proper NYU channels, but nothing was done to help him until his request for a transfer was granted. The New York Daily News reports:
An African immigrant received a $210,000 payout from NYU after his abusive mailroom supervisor repeatedly ridiculed him as a “monkey” and a “gorilla.”
“Do you want a banana?” his boss asked NYU employee Osei Agyemang in one of many racist remarks reportedly made to the native of Ghana from July 2007 through January 2009.
The boss mocked the immigrant’s accent as “gibberish,” while telling him “go back to your cage” and “go back to the jungle,” according to a September 2010 suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The settlement between the Manhattan university and the one-time worker at the Bobst Library was made public yesterday.
“This suit shows that ugly harassment and retaliation can happen anywhere, even at a prestigious university,” said EEOC attorney Gilliam Thomas, who represented Agyemang.
The EEOC release regarding the settlement further explains that the $210,000 sum granted represents “lost wages and compensation for the emotional distress” suffered by Agyemang. NYU will also be required to update its policies and procedures for dealing with racial and nation of origin harassment in a process that will be monitored by the EEOC.
Still, NYU calls the situation Agyemang suffered through unusual for the university. Spokesman John Beckman stressed to the press that the harassing employee is no longer with the school, adding: “Such behavior is extremely rare here, and totally at odds with the spirit of diversity and tolerance for which NYU is rightly known.”
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