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‘Counteract the stigma’: formerly incarcerated UCLA student files wrongful termination suit against UC Regents

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A former UCLA student is filing a lawsuit against UC Regents.

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NOVEMBER 09, 2022

John “Jack” McInerney, an applicant for an office assistant job in Oct. 2021 at the University of California, Los Angeles, filed a lawsuit against the UC Regents for wrongful termination by denying him employment based on his conviction history.

McInerney performed the duties of an office assistant at the Graduate Student Resource Center at UCLA for six weeks before he was terminated, which his lawyers said violated the Fair Housing and Employment Act, or FEHA.

“A 14 year-old drug conviction, coupled with no contact from law enforcement since at least 2009, has no bearing on Mr. McInerney’s abilities or qualifications for such a position,” said McInerney’s attorney Jenny Baysinger in an email.

The duties of the office assistant job did not require him to have access to secure facilities, money, private information or controlled substances, according to Baysinger.

Baysinger said McInerney worked as an office assistant without any incidents before his background check was completed, and he was placed on administrative leave.

“The University has not provided any insight into its reasoning…indicating the required ‘individualized assessment’ was conducted or what considerations led to his disqualification from employment,” Baysinger said in an email.

As of press time, the UC Office of the President referred The Daily Californian to UCLA, who declined to comment on pending litigation.

McInerney was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of possession of a controlled substance for sale in 2005 and 2007 and then served two years in California state prison, according to the lawsuit file.

McInerney also spent “years of his life homeless and destitute” before being admitted to UCLA, according to the lawsuit file. At 68, he started working towards his bachelor’s degree with the goal of entering a career in psychology and counseling.

“The law is intended to create more opportunity for qualified and capable people who, despite their criminal histories, have moved forward and overcome and should be able to build a successful and stable future for themselves,” Baysinger said in the email.

McInerney and his attorneys argue that there was no proper justification for his termination considering that he had no incidents, served his time in prison and the convictions are more than 14 years old.

In the email, Baysinger also said that McInerney should not be punished for mistakes he made and that the university is preventing him from “becoming a productive member of society.”

“It communicates that Mr. McInerney will always be viewed as a criminal and less valuable/worthwhile in society, despite the passage of substantial time and his efforts at self-improvement,” Baysinger said in the email.

Contact Lucía Umeki-Martínez at 

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NOVEMBER 09, 2022