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Former college CFO alleges retaliation, prejudice in termination

The former chief financial officer (CFO) of Menlo College has filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court against the northern California school, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for pointing out financial wrongdoing by the school. He also contends that the termination was based on discriminatory views about his nationality.

The former CFO, who joined the college in 2010, states in the suit that the problems started the following year when the man who had recruited him was promoted from provost to president of the college. The plaintiff said he voiced concern to the president when he found that funds were being used improperly — specifically, federal money for financial aid and funds designated for tax-exempt student housing. He also found that the college was inaccurately reporting both revenue and expenses on their federal tax documents.

The plaintiff says that his positive performance reviews worsened after he pointed out these financial issues. Then, early this year, the CFO position was eliminated. He says that the new position of budget director had less authority and pay, so he refused to take it. That is when he says he was terminated.

There is another element to the lawsuit. In a private conversation between the provost who recruited him and the plaintiff’s partner prior to his hiring, he says that the provost told his partner that he liked Filipino employees because they were loyal and easily trained. The plaintiff says that when his partner told him about the comments, he was concerned, but still decided to accept the position.

The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff was fired for calling attention to the college’s illegal accounting practices. He believes he was expected not to speak up about evidence of wrongdoing because of his heritage. The plaintiff is seeking unspecified damages.

This is just the latest example of people making statements regarding someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or another characteristic that are inappropriate, and usually irrelevant, in a professional situation. It will be interesting to see whether the statements made by the college’s then-provost impact the outcome of the lawsuit.

San Jose Mercury-News, “Suit accuses Menlo College of racism and retaliation in firing CFO” Bonnie Eslinger, Sep. 11, 2013

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