LOS ANGELES – A Muslim employee of Los Angeles Unified who sued the district, alleging she was subjected to disparate treatment by a manager who gave favorable treatment to Latino employees and told the plaintiff to get psychological help, can take her case to trial, a judge has ruled.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Theresa M. Traber ruled Wednesday on an LAUSD motion to dismiss plaintiff Nada Shaath’s case, which the judge had taken under submission on Nov. 22. Shaath’s causes of action include racial and religious discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
In their court papers arguing in support of the dismissal of Shaath’s suit, LAUSD attorneys stated that the plaintiff had not shown any evidence that the district treated her less favorably than others or that she was forced to work in a hostile environment because of her “protected status.”
“Finally, and perhaps most significantly, (Shaath) has not suffered any adverse employment action; to the contrary, she was promoted,” according to the LAUSD lawyers’ court papers.
Shaath, born in Kuwait, was hired in 2007 in LAUSD’s Multilingual and Multicultural Education Department as a specialist whose duties include obtaining grants, the suit filed in June 2021 states. Shaath alleges the department’s executive director, Lydia Acosta Stephens, has discriminated against the plaintiff because of her religion and race, unfairly questioned the plaintiff’s ethics, and criticized her success in advancing the school district’s Arabic program.
Acosta Stephens told Shaath she was “dispensable” and accused her of having trouble getting along with people, including one person who bullied the plaintiff and made fun of her Arabic name, according to the suit.
Acosta Stephens also advised Shaath to get psychological help and to take family leave after the plaintiff complained that her direct supervisor had forged the plaintiff’s name on a document, according to the suit. The manager often threatened to write reports about Shaath for insignificant matters that were not held against other employees, according to the suit.
Shaath was paid less than Latino specialists with similar or fewer qualifications than the plaintiff, the suit states. Shaath also was given too little time to complete projects with the apparent goal of making her fail, the suit alleges.
Shaath was not paid overtime for work done at home and she and another employee with a Middle Eastern background were denied a promotion that was ultimately given to a less qualified Latino, the suit states.
“The concerted harassment and retaliation created a hostile work environment, making it very difficult for plaintiff to do her job,” the suit states.
Shaath filed a complaint to the LAUSD’s Equal Opportunity Section in December, but the alleged harassment and retaliation continued and the plaintiff’s complaint was eventually closed without an adequate investigation or finding, according to the suit.