SEAS researcher says she faced months of discrimination before firing

A research engineer is suing the University for unjustly firing her after she told top officials that she had faced months of racial and gender discrimination.

Inja Youn, a 51-year-old woman from Korea, claims that the dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, David Dolling, denied her a promotion after he and other officials ignored her complaints of a hostile work environment.

Throughout Youn’s three years at GW, she said her colleagues called her a communist and said she “look[ed] like a ninja.” And as the only woman in her Tompkins Hall office, she said her male colleagues would allegedly curse at her and “regularly try to rub [her] shoulders or hug her.”

She twice tried to take her case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the D.C. Office of Human Rights, but the agencies did not find evidence that the University had violated federal labor laws.

She said she brought multiple complaints to her supervisor, Eric Noriega, who was then the SEAS computing director. But she claims Noriega “did nothing to fix the situation.”

In January 2011, she took her complaints to the University’s equal opportunity office, where she said she learned that others had complained about Dolling’s “biased management” over the last two years.

A month later, she had a meeting with Sabrina Ellis, the University’s vice president for Human Resources, who accused Youn of lying about pretending to be sick to miss work, according to Youn’s complaint.

The following year when she was denied promotion, Youn claims that a staff member in the department’s finance office told her that GW “will never select an Asian woman” for the job.

The University instead chose Raoul Gabiam, who previously worked as GW’s IT manager. Youn said she told her new boss that she did not feel safe in the office, but said Gabiam ignored her.

Gabiam and four security guards came to Youn’s office in March 2013 to fire her for “failure to follow directions, failure to report to her workplace as directed” and “insubordinate behavior,” when Gabiam allegedly tossed the termination letter in Youn’s face and cleared her personal items off her desk.

She is asking for more than $5,000 in compensation for lost earnings, emotional distress, embarrassment and “loss enjoyment of life.” Youn also wants the court to order GW to reinstate her as a research associate.

University spokesperson Michelle Sherrard said GW does not comment on pending litigation. Youn and her attorney did not return requests for comment.

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