Yale University scored a partial victory Thursday when a U.S. district court judge threw out one of seven counts leveled by a former employee who claimed racial discrimination and harassment by his supervisor.
In tossing Leon McCalla’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, U.S. District Judge Janet Hall said the plaintiff failed to show the alleged conduct against him met the high bar of his claim.
“The court agrees that the facts alleged by McCalla do not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous and count seven is dismissed on this ground,” Hall wrote.
The litigation continues and the next step in the case are for depositions to be conducted.
McCalla, who worked as a lab technician at the university’s Animal Resources Center, said he was belittled, micromanaged and repeatedly put down by Melissa Bonk, his supervisor since May 2013. A lawsuit citing violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was filed June 23.
McCalla, one of the three African-American lab technicians, said the minority lab technicians had been “reprimanded, either verbally or written,” by Bonk, who is white. McCalla, who had worked for Yale since 1989, alleged the nine white technicians were not reprimanded for the same infractions that their African-American counterparts were.
One example, McCalla said, occurred in March 2016.
“Ms. Bonk again berated, ridiculed and insulted plaintiff, for pointing out a scheduling error that Scott Wilson, his backup scheduler made.” Wilson, who is white, was not ridiculed or disciplined, the suit said.
The suit also alleges the African-American workers were written up for coming into work late, when the same rule didn’t apply to their white counterparts. Specifically, the suit states, Wilson “was not written up for arriving to work late on a routine basis.”
Bonk allegedly made McCalla’s work environment unbearable by degrading him in front of others after he filed several complaints against her. On the advice of his doctor, McCalla was discharged from Yale in August 2016. McCalla, the suit states, “could no longer tolerate Yale’s hostile work environment.”
The lawsuit has six remaining counts: discrimination based on race and nationality, a violation of Title VII; retaliation based upon race and nationality, a violation of Title VII; race and nationality discrimination, a violation of Connecticut general statutes; race and nationality discrimination, retaliation in violation of Connecticut general statutes; hostile work environment, a violation of Title VII; and hostile work environment based upon race and national discrimination, a violation of Connecticut general statutes.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, pre-judgment interest; and attorney fees. McCalla is seeking a jury trial.
Kevin Shea, partner with Clendenen & Shea in New Haven, represents Yale.
“Our next step is to proceed with discovery on the remaining counts.” Shea said Friday. “The other counts may or may not have factual disputes that we do not know about until we proceed with discovery. The university is defending these claims.” Shea did not elaborate.
McCalla is represented by Eugene Axelrod, owner, and Michael McMinn, associate, both with Axelrod & Associates in Woodbridge. Neither attorney responded to a request for comment Friday.