Former Professor Awarded $1M for Threats About Suit

March 17, 2016

A former professor of architecture at Catholic University won $1 million in damages this week after a jury found that the institution attempted to scare her out of suing it for discrimination, The Washington Post reported. After a four-week trial, a jury in D.C. Superior Court rejected Rauzia Ruhana Ally’s claim that she was fired because she is a Muslim Indian woman, but determined that administrators engaged in an email campaign to get her to drop a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Ally was fired in 2012, a year after taking on a job as director of a university project, according to the post. The university said she was insubordinate and failed to keep project costs down, but Ally alleged discrimination. Ally’s attorney during the trial presented emails from Randall W. Ott, dean of Catholic’s School of Architecture, accusing the former professor and her husband of stealing a desk-size model home and discussing a plan to press charges. Ally said she never removed the model, and charges were never brought, but Ott in an email to another administrator referred to the proposed charges as a “threat.”

Elise Italiano, university spokesperson, told the Post that in “both policy and practice, the university is committed to fair and equal treatment of every employee. We have respect for every employee and a rich compliance and ethics program.” She denied that Ott’s emails were malicious but said the university was reviewing standards about how managers communicate.

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