Professor sues Prairie View A&M University, alleging discrimination

By Robbie Hargett | Aug 31, 2015

A Nigerian-born academic is suing Prairie View A&M University, alleging discrimination.

A Nigerian-born academic is suing Prairie View A&M University, alleging discrimination.

Dr. N'Ekwunife Muoneke filed a lawsuit July 31 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas against Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), alleging national origin discrimination and retaliation.

According to the complaint, Muoneke, a Nigerian-born U.S. citizen who was hired as a professor of mathematics at PVAMU on Aug. 23, 1986, began experiencing employment discrimination when Iranian-born Aliakbar Haghighi became the mathematics department head in 2002.

The suit says Muoneke was denied a government-mandated raise of three percent per year, was denied training that employees from non-African countries were given, was given fewer classes than professors from non-African countries, was forced to use old equipment, and was not allowed to apply to be director of the honors program.

The lawsuit alleges Haghighi, specifically, harassed Muoneke repeatedly from 2002 to 2014, including reporting him for fabricated mistakes several times per week, and even removed Muoneke's belongings from his office under the pretense that the office would be given to another professor, although there was no other professor at the time.

The complaint alleges Haghighi orchestrated the removal of several employees from African countries, including Muoneke, replacing them with people from Middle Eastern nations who were not as qualified or equally qualified, and Muoneke's salary was frozen after he volunteered as a witness for another African-born colleague in his complaint of discrimination against Haghighi in 2008.

Muoneke was forced to retire Aug. 31, 2014, after the defendant accused him of not following requirements including completing evaluations, of which he missed one, the lawsuit states. The complaint alleges if the plaintiff were not from Nigeria, he would not have been forced to retire.

Muoneke seeks damages and lost wages, plus court costs and attorney fees.

He is represented by attorneys Shelby C. Vick and Bruce A. Coane of Coane and Associates in Houston.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number 4:15-cv-02212.

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