Employee discrimination lawsuit dismissed by Superior Court

Judge John Sedwick of the U.S. District Court recently dismissed UA employee John Mun’s racial and religious discrimination lawsuit against the university because of insufficient evidence for the suit to go to trial, according to court documents filed Jan. 27.

The lawsuit, first filed in March 2005, charged that Mun was denied overtime pay and discriminated against because of his race and religion. Mun claims he was passed over for promotion by less-qualified co-workers because they were white and Christian, while he is Korean and Buddhist.

The suit additionally states that when Mun complained to his supervisor, Rick Weems, about these issues he was subjected to a hostile work environment.

Rick Weems, when reached for comment, referred questions to Mark Ashburn, UAA’s attorney. Ashburn did not reply to requests to be interviewed, although he did comment to The Associated Press.

“We believe the court ruling accurately reflects there was no racial or religious discrimination of any sort against John Mun,” Ashburn said.

According to court documents provided from Ashburn’s office, Mun requested a status conference on Jan. 31. The request was denied.

“At this point in time, Mr. Mun is still represented in this court by Mr. Acker, and in any event, this case has been dismissed. Mr. Mun should address his concerns with his attorney, Mr. Acker,” Sedwick wrote in an order from his chambers.

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Hoping to resolve the matter internally, Mun first filed a claim for the disputed overtime pay in September 2002. Mun said UA general counsel informed him he did not need an attorney at that point, and he therefore didn’t hire one for almost a year following his complaint. By then, he said he thought that he did not receive a fair and equitable hearing from UAA’s Diversity and Compliance Office about his claim and that he needed to go to court when his grievance was dismissed.

“It seemed to me that the decision of the hearing was predetermined, that it was known all along what the outcome would be,” Mun said. “I feel that immediately the full weight of the university was behind Mr. Weems and that my case did not receive the weight and regard it deserved- one of the panel members even fell asleep during the review of my case.”

Although the back pay issue was eventually resolved, Mun said his work environment became increasingly uncomfortable. He said there were requests for select people to participate in prayer groups, and in prayers before work. Weems denied that was the case.

Mun soon filed a second claim of racial and religious bias, and his position as the curriculum advising and program planning coordinator was eliminated soon after. He was placed in another position at the university with the same pay. He said he worries that the degree evaluation program he worked on for years may be removed.

“The CAPP program has successfully run around 12,000 successful online degree evaluations for students, staff and faculty,” Mun said. “The program needs to be maintained and updated, and there has been no one doing that since I left the position.”

After being filed in the district court, the legal wrangling over the lawsuit began, with no less than six motions being ruled on before the suit was finally scheduled to go to trial. A prior summary judgment _” a request to dismiss the case on lack of evidence before the trial _” was filed by UAA in June, and was denied. The trial date had been set for Feb. 6.

With the lawsuit now dismissed it seems that the case is over, but this ruling may not be the end of the matter.

As reported in the Daily News on Jan. 30, Mun’s attorney, Dennis Acker, missed several deadlines to file court documents. Acker did not respond to attempts to contact him for an interview and Mun has been forced to re-evaluate his position, regarding both the lawsuit and his attorney’s actions. The case cannot be appealed, because it was not tried.

With the lawsuit dismissed, Mun is mulling over his options at this point. He says that his goal was to help all minority employees at UAA.

“What I had wanted to see result from this was to make the grievance process fair and impartial for all involved,” Mun said. “I am sure that there are other people that have problems like mine, but are afraid to come forward, I was hoping this would change that.”