LYNCHBURG, Va. – A former Liberty University employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the university.
Kelvin Edwards claims he was wrongfully terminated by Liberty last October, having been promised a job for at least 10 years, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
Edwards, who graduated from Liberty in the 80s and also played for the football team, claimes that he was discriminated against based on his race in violation of Title VII the Virginia Human Rights Act and federal law, as well as breach of oral contract.
Edwards claims that when he was offered the position of executive vice president of management efficiencies and diversity in June 2020, that he was promised the following:
- $275,000 salary
- Monthly vehicle allowance of $1,500
- Full scholarships for Edwards and his family for undergraduate and graduate degrees
- Construction of a new home for him and his family on Liberty Mountain
Liberty also told Edwards that it wanted to commit long-term to Edwards, for at least 10 years or until retirement, whichever came first, according to the lawsuit.
He started in the role on July 1 and the university announced Edwards’ new role in August.
Early in Edward’s tenure, Jerry Prevo was named acting president of Liberty University.
“On our around September 4, 2020, Prevo indicated to Mr. Edwards that he felt that there was confusion about Mr. Edward’s role at the University. Prevo also told Mr. Edwards that he did not recall approving this job description. It became clear that Prevo’s confusion could be explained by the fact that Prevo did not believe in diversity efforts based at Liberty. In fact ‚during the same time frame, Mr. Edwards heard Prevo comment that there were ‘too many people’ in diversity and inclusion,” according to the lawsuit.
On Sept. 28, Prevo had another meeting with Edwards where he informed Edwards that he would no longer be in his role and that Prevo would be taking over as the role of efficiency manager, according to the suit.
Prevo told Edwards that he would now be working under Turner Gill, the only other African American on Liberty’s executive leadership team.
“A few weeks later, Prevo further notified Mr. Edwards that his employment with Liberty was terminated on October 2, 2020. Prevo did this without having any further discussions with Mr. Edwards about his new role or what would be his duties and responsibilities,” according to the lawsuit.
Due to the nature of his demotion and termination, Edwards is claiming both racial discrimination and breach of contract by Liberty.
Below is a statement from Liberty University:
Liberty University rejects the claims of Kelvin Edwards and will prove them false through the legal process. The University and its president are fully committed to racial and ethnic inclusion and diversity throughout Liberty, including on its faculty, in its student body and staff, and on its executive team.
Upon becoming acting president, Jerry Prevo evaluated the executive team and concluded that among his predecessor’s mistakes was the hiring of Mr. Edwards to be an Executive Vice President of Management Efficiencies and Diversity. Efforts to work with Mr. Edwards to find an alternative role for which he was qualified with a reasonable compensation package were unfruitful. Mr. Edwards insisted on retaining the executive role with no change in compensation. Liberty offered to compensate him for returning to Texas, the inconvenience of the false start, and the transition time. Mr. Edwards refused. He demanded five years’ salary with no work, which Liberty simply cannot pay under governing law.
Mr. Edward’s lawyers have now reframed Liberty’s decisions as racially motivated discrimination by a leader not committed to staffing and achieving the Liberty University Board’s diversity and inclusion goals. Those allegations are completely false. President Prevo has assembled a high-quality and well-qualified team in Liberty’s Inclusion, Equity and Diversity division and increased its budget by over $1 million. They are moving forward and executing on amazing projects and initiatives with the full support and blessing of the acting president.