Former SIS assistant professor sues AU for age discrimination

Lori Handrahan is suing after filing a complaint in May

Former SIS assistant professor sues AU for age discrimination
The School of International Service

The University was accused of age discrimination again, this time from a female professor who said in a lawsuit that she lost out on a professorial lecturer position to a younger male candidate.

Lori Handrahan, a former faculty member in the School of International Service, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, according to the suit, and filed a lawsuit against AU in October.

“One of the things that is at stake here is whether or not University students are going to get the best teachers and the best faculty, as opposed to faculty that is hired because of discriminatory purposes,” Bob Flores, Handrahan’s counsel, told The Eagle.

In Handrahan’s complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she alleged a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people 40 or older. 

Handrahan’s suit alleges that AU offered the position to two male candidates whom they knew were younger based on their work and education histories.

Handrahan, who was 49 when she applied for the position in July 2018, has a resume that includes work at the United Nations, CARE and the State Department, according to the lawsuit. She has published research in academic journals, authored several books and been quoted by prominent media outlets.

The lawsuit states that Handrahan taught as an adjunct faculty member, lecturer and assistant professor at various times from 2002 to 2015, but Flores did not specify which positions Handrahan held at which time. 

“It would be hard to find someone with as extensive academic and professional background,” Flores said.

Handrahan also alleged a violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act in the suit. The act’s mission is to end “discrimination for any reason other than that of individual merit” in D.C.

The lawsuit states that Handrahan is seeking compensation for damages, including past and future lost wages, liquidated damages under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, punitive damages under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, and legal fees and costs.

This lawsuit came after several female professors over the past decade accused the University and former provost Scott Bass of discrimination during the tenure process.

While the University would not comment specifically on Handrahan’s lawsuit, AU spokesperson Lisa Stark sent an email to The Eagle with a comment regarding AU’s hiring practices.

“American University is committed to ensuring inclusive excellence in all parts of our community,” the statement said. “The University does not discriminate in its hiring or any other employment practices and views each hire and the hiring process as critical to the success of our students and our academic mission.” 

This is a developing story and will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

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