Woman sues ‘U’ for alleged racial discrimination in hiring practices

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - 3:20pm

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Max Kuang/Daily

Kertina Kimbrough, former senior administrative assistant at the University of Michigan, filed a lawsuit Feb. 19 alleging the University denied her a second interview for a position as research office administrator in the Department of Psychiatry due to racial discrimination. 

According to the lawsuit, the University posted the position in September 2018 and Kimbrough applied for the job that month. 

The research office administrator position required two to four years of experience performing general administrative work. Kimbrough had worked for the University since 2015 and held a position as a senior administrative assistant. 

Four people interviewed for the position –– one other Black candidate and two white candidates. Of the interviewees, Kimbrough alleges she had the most education and administrative experience. 

The position also required at least a bachelor’s degree, and at the time of the interview, Kimbrough held both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The candidate hired for the position, who is white, does not hold a college degree.

Kimbrough alleges her greater educational and administrative experience made her more qualified for the position than the four other candidates yet she was denied a second interview based on race. 

Kayce Newcomb, administrator of the Department of Psychiatry and the named defendant in the case, awarded the position to the other candidate because she was a “better fit,” according to MLive

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University had no further comment regarding the pending lawsuit. 

This is not the first time the University has faced a discrimination lawsuit. Professor Emily Lawsin and former Professor Scott Kurashige filed a lawsuit in 2016 against the University under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which included claims such as disparate treatment, discriminatory hiring practices and sex discrimination. In December 2019, a jury sided in favor of the University, saying it did not discriminate against Lawsin and Kurashige.

Earlier this month, U-M Flint employee Heather Johnson filed a separate lawsuit against U-M Flint, claiming the university fired her after she advocated for better resources for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. 

Reporter Julia Rubin can be reached at julrubin@umich.edu.