Shira Hedgepeth (pictured), the former director of academic technology at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) in North Carolina, is claiming that she was terminated from her post last July because she is White.
After filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) just two days after she was released, the agency now agrees with her allegations, according to the New York Daily News.
Hedgepeth, who has been with the university since 2008 and was promoted to her last post in 2010, reportedly performed her duties to the satisfaction of higher-ups and never received any complaints about her job performance. Over time, however, Hedgepeth began to notice that when White university employees were terminated from their jobs, typically for no justified reason, she contends the vacancies were usually filled by people of color.
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Hedgepeth’s observations of White employees being replaced by non-Whites soon turned into noticeable patterns and when it was her turn, she alleges she could no longer stand idly by.
The EEOC concurs with Hedgepeth’s allegations concluding that, “race, white, was a factor in the terms and conditions of employment and respondent’s (WSSU’s) decision to terminate her employment.”
WSSU, however, is not happy with the agency’s determination and argues Hedgepeth was let go because of departmental changes and responsibilities that required “advanced skills in systems and applications programming.” The educational institution also contends that Hedgepeth’s firing was absolutely not discriminatory.
The racial breakdown for WSSU’s fiscal year 2010-11 is as follows: 67.3 percent of WSSU’s employees are black; 23.9 percent are white; 6 percent of the employees are Asian; 0.2 percent are Native American; 2.4 percent are non-citizens who are here legally; 1.1 percent are Hispanic. The race/ethnicity of 3.5 percent is unclear.
If no settlement is reached by both parties, the case could see its way to the federal court level.
Meanwhile Hedgepeth, who is still sans employment, claims that the firing has been detrimental to herself and her family. She told the Winston-Salem Journal, “People need to be aware that the law works both ways and when race comes into play, it doesn’t benefit anyone,” she said. “Our tax dollars are supporting that. My tax money is going to an institution that teaches racism.”