Campus administrative assistant sues UC Berkeley for alleged age, race discrimination

Kimberly Veklerov/File

Related Posts

Update 11/23/16: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from campus spokesperson. 

An administrative assistant in the campus statistics department filed a lawsuit Monday against UC Berkeley alleging that she was terminated from her position for reporting age and race discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, Makalia Aga applied for a position as a financial services analyst II in the statistics department but was allegedly denied an interview despite exceeding the minimum qualifications for the job and filing a timely application. Later, the lawsuit states, Aga was terminated within a month of complaining about the department’s hiring practices to the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, the discrimination allegations were thoroughly investigated by the campus and found to be unsubstantiated.

The lawsuit alleges that Aga’s direct supervisor, Maria Torralba, falsely claimed that Aga had not filed her application on time to avoid offering her an interview for the position.

The lawsuit alleges that after Aga filed a complaint about the incident and confirmed she had applied on time, Torralba granted her an interview but had already preselected a former student employee for the position.

The lawsuit states Torralba allegedly told Aga that she was not considered a finalist for the interview because she did not have an accounting degree and that those who advanced did. According to the lawsuit, however, Aga does have an accounting degree whereas the Kamini Iyer, the applicant hired for the position has a degree in environmental sciences, not accounting.

The lawsuit adds that Aga has more than 20 years of experience in accounting and finance.

“Ms. Aga was more qualified by education training and experience than Ms. Iyer for the Financial Services Analyst II position and would have been selected for that position but for her race and her age,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that it was known that Iyer intended to stay at the job only temporarily and, with this in mind, Torralba hired a temporary employee, Keyla Gomez, to be trained by Iyer for the duties of the position. Iyer left the job after a few months, according to the lawsuit.

“This cross-training of Ms. Gomez and Ms. Iyers as well as the termination of Ms. Aga, was part of a plan to insure that Ms. Gomez, and not Ms. Aga, would be selected for the Financial Services Analyst II position, once Ms. Iyer left to take a job in her chosen field,” the lawsuit alleges.

Aga met with the campus director of staff diversity initiatives Sidalia Reel on Feb. 5, 2014, to tell her about the hiring process, the lawsuit states. Later that month, Aga was terminated from her position. The lawsuit alleges that a caucasian employee was subsequently hired to perform Aga’s duties.

The lawsuit alleges that these actions violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s age and race as well as retaliation against an employee for complaining about discrimination.

Jessica Lynn is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.