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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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UC Regents to Face Trial on Gender, not Race, Bias

(CN) - Two female architects can advance gender-discrimination claims against the Regents of the University of California, but they do not have a case for racial bias since the job they wanted went to an Asian man, a federal magistrate ruled.

Josephine Ortega and Wenbo Yuan sued the regents last year, after they were passed over for a director of architectural services position at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The 2011 complaint alleges that the university's principal planner for architectural site design "groomed" the chosen candidate "by giving him special assignments."

A selection committee promoted senior architect Felix Ang to the director position in August 2010 after finding that his attitude made him the best candidate though other applicants had more experience.

But Ortega and Yuan said the regents had violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Materials filed with the San Jose court show that university's physical planning and construction unity "has never appointed a female director in the technical areas, such as architectural services, engineering, and construction."

Yet an independent, outside investigator hired to handle the women's internal complaints ultimately concluded that there was no discrimination

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal refused to grant the regents summary judgment Thursday, after finding that there is "a triable issue of fact as to whether the plaintiffs were at least as qualified, if not more so, than the chosen candidate for promotion."

"Yuan had been a licensed architect for nine years and had worked on several multi-million dollar projects, including the Biomedical Sciences Facility project, which was the 'largest and most complex single project' undertaken by UCSC," the 16-page order states. "Ortega had held an architecture license for about 15 years and had served as project manager for several large-scale projects. Ang had managed only one project before coming to UCSC in 2006 and had only held an architectural license for four years. Members of the selection panel even admitted Ang did not have the same technical qualifications as some other candidates."

Grewal added that "summary judgment on plaintiffs' gender discrimination claim regarding Ang's promotion would be improper" since "a reasonable jury might infer discrimination based on the evidence presented."

Noting that both Ang and Yuan are Chinese-American, however, the judge said there is no basis to sustain a claim for race discrimination.

"Though Ortega is of a different race than Ang, the bare assertion that the plaintiff was of a different race than the chosen candidate does not support a reasonable inference that the employer had a discriminatory motive in making the employment decision," Grewal added.

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