N.C. State Hit with Wrongful Termination Suit

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North Carolina State’s former director of academic support for student-athletes has filed a federal lawsuit, alleging he was discriminated against and harassed before his termination in April 2015.

According to a report from The News & Observer, Jermaine Holmes says that N.C. State fired him after he questioned the university’s practice of having interns work 60 hours a week while only being paid for 40. Holmes also took issue with the employment of a basketball coach’s daughter and the elimination of three intern positions at a time when the number of at-risk student-athletes being admitted to the school was on the rise.

Holmes, an African-American man, was replaced by Sheridan Graham, a white woman.

Brad Bohlander, a spokesman for N.C. State, told the The News and Observer that he was confident that the school had handled Holmes’ termination properly, noting that Holmes' previous complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was dismissed.

"While NC State has not been served with the lawsuit, Jermaine Holmes has made claims in the past which have proven unfounded. Several years ago, he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge of discrimination against NC State which was dismissed by the agency,” Bohlander said in the statement. “All action taken in regard to Mr. Holmes' employment at NC State was a direct result of his performance. NC State disputes his current claims and is confident that we'll successfully defend this lawsuit in court.”

Robert Lewis Jr., Holmes' lawyer, said the EEOC dismissal was not a dismissal in the ordinary sense of the word. "An EEOC dismissal means the EEOC’s limited investigation cannot determine whether N.C. State’s behavior arose to the level of discrimination or any other wrongdoing (no smoking gun),” Lewis said. “As such, if there is not enough evidence from the EEOC’s investigation for the EEOC to sue N.C. State on behalf of the complainant, the EEOC will issue a Right to Sue Letter giving the complainant the right to sue in Federal Court. The EEOC dismissal has nothing to do with Mr. Holmes’ Federal court case."

Holmes’ lawsuit details a variety of instances where he felt N.C. State was acting improperly. He alleges that after bringing his concerns to a meeting with athletic director Debbie Yow and vice chancellor Mike Mullen, he began being treated differently. 

Holmes is seeking damages that will “deter such wrongdoing in the future.”

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