UCSC Must Face Architects’ Gender Bias Suit

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Two female architects, one Hispanic and one Asian, may pursue gender discrimination claims against the University of California because they were passed over for promotions in their profession.  But a federal magistrate, in last week’s order, declined to allow them to claim race discrimination because the university hired an Asian man.

Both women sought the job of principal architect at UC Santa Cruz in 2010.

Although Felix Ang had less experience than the two women, and only received his architecture license in 2006, he was promoted over the two women.

Josephine Ortega began work at UC Santa Cruz in 2001 as an engineer and was promoted through the ranks to supervising senior architect in 2006. She had been a licensed architect 15 years.  Wenbo Yuan, joined UC Santa Cruz in 2007 as a senior architect and had been a licensed architect for nine years, working on multimillion dollar projects.

In 2010 the director of architectural services retired and officials wanted to reclassify Ang, a senior architect, to take the job.  He had joined UCSC in 2006.  Although he had done some architectural work in Singapore and the U.S., he did not obtain an architecture license until 2006.

Hiring officials say the liked him because he was a “highly respected team player.”

But at least one manager said other people in the department were qualified and out of fairness they should use open recruitment.

Ultimately, Ortega, Yuan, Ang and a white male, Tom Rahe, applied.

Ang was promoted in August 2010 and Yuan and Ortega filed complaints a month later saying Ang had been unfairly “groomed” for the job by getting special assignments.

“Plaintiffs have provided ample evidence raising a triable issue of fact that they were at least as qualified, if not more qualified, than the man who received the promotion,” wrote Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal.  At the time of Ang’s promotion, both Ortega and Yuan had years of experience managing projects and held licenses for years, he wrote.

Evidence may provide reasons for their rejection, or why Ang was preferred, but that is up to a jury, according to Grewal.

Case: Ortega v. Regents of the University of California, No. C11-04031PSG

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