Court grants request for HR employee to testify in AU Athletics race discrimination case

David Nakhid is suing the University after it denied him the men’s soccer head coaching position; court denies request for more details about the University’s affirmative action plan

Court grants request for HR employee to testify in AU Athletics race discrimination case
The AU Athletics Center in Bender Arena.

In the next step of David Nakhid’s discrimination lawsuit against the University, on Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted his counsel’s request for an employee who works with AU’s Human Relations department and investigated his discrimination complaint to testify in regards to her knowledge of the search and discovery documents. 

Nakhid, who is Black and from Trinidad and Tobago, is a former AU soccer player who is in the Stafford H. Cassell Hall of Fame and served as an assistant coach for the Trinidad and Tobago men's national soccer team in 2006, which played in the World Cup. He is suing the University for race and ethnicity discrimination after being denied a head coaching position for the men’s soccer team in late 2018, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Nakhid was denied an interview.

Nakhid’s counsel, Eden Brown Gaines, said that Brenda Harner, director of AU HR’s employment compliance and relations, provided a briefing to the administration regarding the University’s affirmative action plan after Zach Samol, who is white, was selected for the head coaching position. 

While Nakhid’s counsel requested testimony from Harner to provide further insight into the University’s affirmative action plans, the court denied the request. 

Nakhid’s counsel also requested that the University produces “any and all” complaints of discrimination, whether formal or informal, made against or involving the athletic department at AU. The court denied this motion as well, stating that the scope of the request was too broad. 

However, if the University received “generalized complaints” about the predominantly-white makeup of the athletic department, the court affirmed that they should be produced. The University has represented that they do not have any of these complaints, but they could be released in the future if they come to light, according to Brown Gaines.

AU has employed just one Black head coach throughout the athletic department since 2004, hiring Marsha Harper to lead the women’s soccer team in late 2019.

“It's hard for me to imagine that you could look at the demographics of the athletic department, and have affirmative action goals or have a plan, and don't see an all-white department at the upper echelons of positions as problematic,” Brown Gaines said.

In an email to The Eagle, a University spokesperson said Tuesday’s ruling “was a standard resolution of outstanding procedural questions relating to discovery, which has ended.”

“Further responses will be provided consistent with the ruling,” the statement said. “American University is committed to inclusive hiring practices and a diverse and welcoming workplace.” 

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