Former UCLA Admin Assistant Sues After Being Fired, Claiming Racial Discrimination

Trinidad and Tobago native Janette Briceno complains that her supervisor joked she wanted to wear a noose around her neck.

UCLA. Patch file photo.
UCLA. Patch file photo.

A black former UCLA employee who says her supervisor joked she wanted to wear a noose around her neck for a party is suing University of California Regents, saying she lost her job because of age and race and for complaining about her boss' conduct.

Janette Briceno, 59, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The suit seeks unspecified damages. The complaint also names Briceno's 52-year-old white former supervisor, Nancy Blumstein, as a defendant.

A UCLA representative did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

According to the lawsuit, Briceno was an administrative assistant in the UCLA Economics Department from September 2012 until last month.

She received good reviews and was considered a "valued member of the team who works well with others in the department and is a welcoming presence for all our invited guests," the suit states.

Last August, Briceno applied to be enrolled in a special program and cited her training and licensing as a psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner, the suit states.

Blumstein told Briceno she was "shocked" and asked if she was serious about trying for the program, according to the lawsuit.

Two months later, Briceno went to meet with a co-worker and found Blumstein already in her colleague's office, the suit states. Blumstein told the co-worker she wanted to "wear a noose around her neck for the Halloween celebration taking place that day," the suit states.

'Given the history of black people in this country with all the lynching and hanging of slaves, are you sure that is what you want to do?," Briceno's co-worker asked Blumstein, the suit states.

Blumstein replied, "Oh, I don't see it that way," the suit states.

On another occasion, Blumstein told Briceno that another professor had said the plaintiff did not perform a task as hoped, the suit states.

Blumstein said the accent of Briceno, who is from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, may have been part of the problem, according to the suit.

When Briceno asked what her accent had to do with the discussion with the professor, Blumstein answered, "Well, if it's not your accent it's your culture," according to the complaint.

Blumstein also once shouted at Briceno in front of co-workers and students and on another occasion called her "dyslexic," the suit states.

Briceno complained about Blumstein to the human resources department in February and filed an internal discrimination and harassment complaint, the suit states.

The next month, Blumstein withheld some of Briceno's pay, saying she was suspended that day for poor performance, the suit states. Briceno received a letter from UCLA in April stating she was being fired and her last day on the job was May 5, the suit states.

"Defendants' job actions against (Briceno) were motivated by (her) race and/or age and/or hre good-faith complaints," the suit states.

--City News Service


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