Former employee sues GW for racial discrimination

Updated: March 30, 2016 at 4:39 p.m.

A former employee is suing GW and two of his former supervisors for racial discrimination and retaliation.

Adam Hill was an executive coordinator at GW from 2007 to 2013, when he left because of a “hostile work environment” created by his supervisors, Donna Hill and Edward Lee, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court earlier this month. The complaint asks for $1 million to cover damages he incurred while at GW.

The complaint alleges that Donna Hill, no relation, and Lee, who are both white, paid Adam Hill less than similar employees, assigned him “disparate jobs,” “unfairly” disciplined him, failed to pay him overtime wages and failed to consider him for promotions he claims he was qualified for. Adam Hill is black, according to the complaint.

“The discrimination and ridicule by Donna Hill was so severe and pervasive that it altered the conditions of Mr. Hill’s workplace,” according to the complaint.

Adam Hill’s duties at GW included working as a help desk technician and “providing administrative support,” according to the complaint. Donna Hill was the assistant director of campus operations and Lee was a solutions system manager, according to the complaint. Donna Hill and Lee are both currently listed in GW’s staff directory.

Because of the stress he felt at GW, a doctor advised Adam Hill to not return to work, according to the complaint. He went on leave due to “the medical condition developed directly as a result of the racial discrimination and retaliation” he endured at work, according to the complaint.

Adam Hill requested affirmative relief in the complaint, which could require new policies about addressing complaints, mandatory discrimination training for his supervisors or any other “equitable relief the court deems appropriate,” according to court documents.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a University policy to not comment on pending litigation. Adam Hill and his attorney, Brendan Klaproth, did not respond to requests for comment. Lee declined to comment.

“I deny Mr. Hill’s allegations, and his claims of racial discrimination are without merit,” Donna Hill said in an email last week. “I look forward to being vindicated in court.”

Adam Hill also claims that while working under Donna Hill, he was often subjected to “racially hostile remarks,” according to the report.

In one example listed in the documents, Donna Hill allegedly told Adam Hill that she “wouldn’t have a problem with my kids dating one of you people,” after realizing he was present during a discussion of the racial makeup of her child’s college, according to the documents.

Donna Hill also referred to one of her son’s black friends as “a token,” according to the complaint. Adam Hill was the only black individual present on both occasions, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that supervisors denied Adam Hill’s attempts to advance his career on four occasions, including denying him additional training. In all instances, the position he was pursuing was later filled by a white individual, including a white student, according to the documents.

Before Donna Hill became Adam Hill’s supervisor in the fall of 2012, his former manager had stated he “was a strong performer and was on track for a promotion,” according to the document.

Adam Hill’s former manager also stated that he had been “targeted and that he was being treated differently than other staff members,” according to the document.

During the six years Adam Hill worked at GW, he never received overtime pay, although white coworkers did, according to the documents.

His supervisors also forced him to perform menial tasks like taking out the trash, vacuuming the floor and moving furniture, which were not included in his job description, according to the documents. These duties were typically performed by custodial staff and Adam Hill said the duties were given to him in order to “belittle and demean him,” according to the documents.

The complaint shows that Adam Hill received a Notice of Right to Sue from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Dec. 18, which gave him the right to file the suit in U.S. District Court.

He initially filed a complaint with the EEOC in 2013, before Donna Hill placed him on a “performance improvement plan,” which the complaint alleges was in retaliation against him after he filed the grievance, according to the complaint.

While under the performance improvement plan, Adam Hill was required to obtain written permission from Lee every time he left his desk, even to use the restroom. On multiple occasions, Lee wasn’t present when needed, meaning Adam Hill was unable to use the restroom or take a lunch break, according to the complaint. When he left his desk without written permission, he was reprimanded, according to the complaint.

None of his similarly positioned white coworkers were required to get written permission to leave their desks, according to the complaint.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Adam Hill is suing GW and two former supervisors for $1,000. He is suing for $1 million in damages, according to a civil cover sheet. We regret this error.

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