Cal Alumni Association sued for alleged retaliation by former associate director

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The Cal Alumni Association has been sued by its former associate director of student engagement, Melissa Barker, who alleges CAA retaliated against her after she reported discrimination concerns to her supervisors.

In April 2016, CAA Alumni Scholars Program Director Anh Tran fired a student intern and CAA scholar. The intern later reported to Barker that he believed his firing was based on his race, national origin or religion because he was Muslim, according to Barker’s suit.

Barker alleges that after she reported the intern’s concerns to her supervisors, her “work environment became hostile” and “CAA retaliated against her for elevating student complaints and advocating on their behalf.”

According to the lawsuit, Barker was later placed on medical leave “due to stress she was experiencing at work,” with her employment eventually terminated.

“The case is basically a retaliation case,” said Lawrence Organ, an attorney representing Barker. “Melissa stood up for some students, interns who she believed were being discriminated against. When she stood up that’s when she started getting treated differently.”

The CAA declined to comment on the pending litigation. Barker declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Organ said Barker wants the CAA to make an “affirmative stance to protect student interns against discrimination” and take steps to protect employees who report complaints to their supervisors.

Organ said in filing the lawsuit on Barker’s behalf, he could not ignore “a lack of sensitivity to civil rights.”

“Certainly there has been a pattern at Berkeley where the university has not (been) the most receptive environment to claims of sexual harassment … and the Alumni Association should be considered part of the campus,” Organ said. “One would hope the university has a different mentality, but there appears to be, in some of the areas, a lack of sensitivity to these issues.”

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.