When the business department search committee members saw the CV, they felt like they had hit pay dirt.
The applicant for the accounting assistant professor position not only was a certified public accountant, but also had a Ph.D. in accounting and several published articles under his belt. The committee voted unanimously to hire him, expecting the decision to sail through the usually pro forma administration approval process.
They were wrong. The candidate was turned down.
Lax, a professor of business law and the business department chair at Kingsborough Community College, had noticed that some members of the administration, most noticeably the school’s provost, Stuart Suss, spoke disparagingly of Jewish staff members. After several years of this he had come to feel that a persistent bias against Jews existed among several officials in the upper reaches of the school’s administration.
Their refusal to hire the accounting Ph.D., who wore a kipa to the interview, added to his suspicions.
“There was no legitimate reason to deny him and he was given no legitimate reason,” Lax’s attorney, Brooke Goldstein, said via email. “He was such a shoe- in … a published Ph.D.”
After that incident, Lax began advising applicants not to wear anything that would indicate they were Jewish during their interviews with administrators.
Four years later, he sued.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York on Feb. 16, Lax contends that the administration’s refusal to hire the accounting Ph.D. is part of a pattern of “hiring/promotion practices designed to limit and eliminate Outward [obvious] Jews from Kingsborough’s faculty.” The lawsuit also accuses the school of having “created, promoted and maintained a pervasively hostile work environment and atmosphere,” in which Lax and other Jewish professors were subjected to “constant discrimination” that included “comments, innuendos and verbal harassment” regarding their religion.
Lax also filed a lawsuit last summer in New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County against CUNY, Suss and several other administrators claiming, among other things, that the school failed to act on his formal discrimination complaint against Suss, unfairly denied his application for promotion and then refused to hear an appeal on the decision. It also claims that Suss “worked relentlessly to marginalize, exclude, disparage, humiliate and discredit” Lax and the only other Jewish department chair.
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