New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Former employee sues NYU, alleging racial discrimination in Athletics Department

The plaintiff claimed that he was paid less than other directors in the department because of his race. The university denies the allegations.
Kevin Wu
Excerpts from the racial discrimination lawsuit. (Graphic by Kevin Wu)

Former intramural Athletics Director Emery Mitchem is suing the university for racial discrimination that he claims resulted in at least $75,000 in lost wages over his roughly one year of employment at NYU.

Mitchem’s lawsuit claims that he was the only Black employee working at the level of director in the Athletics Department, and that he was paid less than non-Black employees in similar roles. When Mitchem questioned department management about his compensation, he was allegedly told it would not be increased to match that of his colleagues. 

The complaint alleges that when Mitchem — who worked for the department from 2021 to 2022 — brought his concerns to human resources, he was told the discrepancy was due to an error and “he should be paid at the director level.” Mitchem claimed that management, however, told him otherwise.

“Plaintiff’s management told him that they only made him a director because ‘you are Black’ and that he should ‘not make waves,’” the complaint reads. “They further told him that they purposely did not and would not pay him the same as other directors and had hoped he would not find out.”

In the lawsuit, Mitchem alleges that when he filed a complaint about his wages, the university retaliated by downgrading him to coordinator and docking points on his performance review. The complaint claims that one of Mitchem’s managers told him these actions were to prevent him from transferring out of the department.

NYU spokesperson John Beckman denied the truth of Mitchem’s claims in a statement to WSN. He said that after Mitchem gave the university notice that he would be resigning from his position, he requested to work remotely for the extent of his notice period. The university was unable to fulfill Mitchem’s request as his position required him to be on-site at the Athletics Department, according to Beckman.

“While NYU has not been served with any legal papers, the university is familiar with this matter, and the claims are entirely without merit,” Beckman said. “It is not true that he was discriminated against, it is not true that he was underpaid for the position which he held and it is not true that he was demoted, among other claims of his that are at odds with the facts. We are confident that the baselessness of these assertions will be made evident as this matter proceeds.”

The case was filed around the time former Athletics Director Stuart Robinson was suspended for alleged inappropriate behavior. Robinson is no longer at NYU following allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Before Robinson was hired by NYU, he was named in a Title IX Lawsuit filed by a former SUNY New Paltz women’s lacrosse coach, which ended in a judgment against SUNY. The case alleged that while Robinson worked with the coach at New Paltz, he made sexual comments toward her and refused to allocate the same resources to men’s and women’s sports teams.

Earlier this year, Mitchem filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the lawsuit. In May he received a right to sue letter, meaning the EEOC determined there are grounds for a possible discrimination case in the complaints raised.  

Since the case disputes the required minimum of $75,000 and crosses state lines — Mitchem is a resident of California, where he now works for the University of Southern California’s Athletics Department — it could eventually be tried in federal court.

Mitchem’s case is set to meet for a pretrial conference in November. Neither Mitchem nor a lawyer representing him in the case responded to a request for comment.

Contact Ania Keenan at [email protected].

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Ania Keenan
Ania Keenan, Features Editor
Ania Keenan is a sophmore double majoring in Journalism and Data Science. She is from California and loves black coffee, long walks, writing poetry and reading non-fiction. When she is not working on the next features investigation, you can find her running along West Side Highway, listening to audiobooks or complaining about the cold.
Kevin Wu
Kevin Wu, Digital Director
Kaiyu (Kevin) Wu is a senior double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and Journalism. He directs everything digital at WSN. You can directly reach him digitally at [email protected].

Comments (0)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *