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Jury Awards Professor $1.3M in Age Bias Case

October 16, 2018
 
 

American University discriminated against a former professor on the basis of her age when it denied her tenure, a unanimous jury in Washington Superior Court found Monday. The professor, Loubna Skalli-Hanna, who now teaches Middle Eastern studies off the tenure track at the University of California Washington Center, applied for tenure at American in 2013. She received endorsements at all levels of review but was denied tenure at the provost’s level.

During the trial, Skalli-Hanna presented evidence that younger tenure candidates and those with inferior publication records were treated more favorably than she or other older candidates were. (One of those candidates, Maria Ivancin, a former professor of communications who was denied tenure under similar circumstances to Skalli-Hanna, previously settled with American.) The jury awarded Skalli-Hanna nearly $1.2 million in damages and $175,000 in emotional distress damages. (Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the total damages.)

Skalli-Hanna said Monday, “I was begging just to do my job, and when I was wronged I went for justice. And the jury, who are not academics, saw something fundamentally wrong … It’s a huge validation.”

Lynne Bernabei, her lawyer, said that it is “very rare that any employment discrimination case, let alone cases about age discrimination, win with a jury, and it’s very, very rare that they win in an academic setting, because they tend to be complex and involve tenure.”

Scott Bass, the provost involved in Skalli-Hanna’s and Ivancin’s cases, has since returned to American’s faculty as a professor of public administration and policy. He did not respond to a request for comment. A university spokesperson said via email, “While we respect the jury system, we feel strongly that no discrimination took place in this case. We are evaluating our options and considering next steps. We will not comment further on matters pending before the court.”

 

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