Berkeley Law employee files lawsuit against supervisor and administration

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UC Berkeley School of Law employee Wilda L. White filed a lawsuit last week against her supervisor, Mary Louise Frampton, for alleged falsification of her 2011 performance evaluation and for attempted fraud.

White, executive director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, is suing Frampton for intentional infliction of emotional distress and deceit, alleging Frampton discriminated against her for being African-American. White says she will also file a lawsuit against Berkeley Law for wrongful termination after exposing Frampton’s alleged falsification.

The lawsuit alleges that Frampton engaged in “lies and deceptions” because plaintiff White is African-American and includes email exchanges between the two that it cites as evidence of Frampton’s purported misrepresentation of White’s performance evaluation.

White is also seeking financial compensation for alleged fraudulent inducement to work six months over a two-year period without pay, which the lawsuit claims resulted in $84,000 of unpaid summer wages.

“She just wanted me to be her puppet,” White said. “She wanted to pull the strings in the back.”

Frampton could not be reached for comment.

White says she felt excluded and did not witness the high level of race consciousness Frampton claimed to uphold. In June and July of 2010, White called in outside facilitator Patricia St. Onge from Seven Generations Consulting to address what she felt was structural racism.

“There were five employees,” St. Onge said. “She was the only African American.”

According to St. Onge, the staff had two meetings; however, the contract to do long-term consulting never continued.

“After a second meeting with the whole team, Mary Louise Frampton didn’t come,” St. Onge said.

Susan Gluss, director of media relations at Boalt, declined to comment on the litigation.

White said she feels there is racial hostility at Berkeley Law as a whole and that professors and students make racist and sexist comments. However, Kathleen Vanden Heuvel, adjunct professor of law and associate dean, said she believes social justice is a very prominent aspect of Boalt — more so than at other law schools.

“It’s woven into everything we do,” Heuvel said. “It’s not just one part. The Henderson Center is just one arm of that.”

Some students also say they have not experienced any explicit discrimination at Boalt.

“I personally haven’t experienced injustice,” said Danielle Pierre, a member of the group Law Students of African Descent and editor in chief of Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy. “I think it’s a very welcoming environment, and the administration is social justice-minded.”

Campus law student Giulia Bramanti said she feels there is diversity and inclusion among professors.

“I think there is a good distribution of ethnicities,” Bramanti said. “I have never heard from my fellow classmates that they felt uncomfortable — actually, the opposite.”

White also met with Tony McKnight, campus investigations coordinator from the chancellor’s office, on Thursday to investigate the law school for “racism,sexism, homophobia and transphobia.” According to White, McKnight has 120 days to conduct the investigation.

She also has hired attorney Nancy Hersh for the separate lawsuit against the law school.

Contact J. Hannah Lee at [email protected]