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Former employee sues Liberty University for discrimination based on sex, religion, race

More than 1,000 Liberty University students, staff in quarantine
More than 1,000 Liberty University students, staff in quarantine

LYNCHBURG, Va. – A former employee is suing Liberty University after he claims he was discriminated against based on his sex, religious beliefs and race.

LeeQuan McLaurin, who identifies as a Black gay Christian man in the complaint he filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, worked as an associate director of student engagement and the director of diversity retention at Liberty University from July 2018 to June 2020.

In court documents, McLaurin claims that he was discriminated against based on his status by senior management.

Below are the examples provided by McLaurin of evidence of this discrimination:

  • McLaurin provided an example that happened in March 2020, where he said his supervisor yelled at him for not sharing his interpretation of Christianity that condemned homosexuality. He said that his supervisor demanded that he profess an understanding that God hates LGBTQIA+ people. When McLaurin refused, he said his supervisor became increasingly agitated and accused him of having a secret “agenda” to advocate for LGBTQIA+ on campus. McLaurin also said he was scolded by his supervisor for including LGBTQIA+ identities at a Liberty University cultural competency training, and his supervisor went on to insist that LGBTQIA+ students did not deserve help from McLaurin or his office.
  • According to McLaurin, his supervisor yelled at him because he refused to define his personal religious beliefs upon request. His supervisor insisted that it was his right to know them because he was his “boss, and you have to tell me.”
  • In Nov. 2019, McLaurin claims that his supervisor told him that homophobia did not exist at Liberty University and that he and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community should be happy that Liberty “allowed” them to be there.
  • McLaurin said that because of the incidents in Nov. 2019 and March 2020, as well as other hostilities, he sought assurance from Human Resources that his job was secure. According to court documents, HR said he “should be prepared for whatever may happen.”
  • In the court filings, McLaurin claims that there were pay disparities between his pay rate and those of other similarly situated employees. When he started, he said he was paid $47,500 per year while fulfilling the job duties of two vacant director roles. He said that he worked these additional roles under his supervisor’s impression that if he fulfilled the duties effectively, he would be promoted eventually. However, McLaurin said he never received compensation for his additional work.
  • McLaurin said he was eventually offered the position of Director of Diversity Retention at a lower salary than his predecessor in the same role who had fewer responsibilities. According to McLaurin, he was offered $52,000 while his predecessor, a cisgender Hispanic, was offered $60,000.
  • According to McLaurin, he turned down the position due to the pay disparity, but the school assigned him to the role in or around Feb. 2020. McLaurin said he wrote to his supervisor about the pay disparity, but it was not addressed and he said his salary was never changed.
  • McLaurin claims that he was used by Liberty University as a token representative for the Black community without his consent. For example, McLaurin said that his email was used to send out mass invitations to a campus event called “Blexit,” in which a far-right influence, Candace Owens, encouraged Black people to leave the Democratic party. During this event, McLaurin said that he was forced to stand among mostly white students and coworkers, chant racially charged language and encourage Black people to leave the Democratic Party.
  • In the court filings, McLaurin said he went to HR several times but nothing was done. He also claims that after going to HR, he was excluded from meetings about diversity on campus, which directly impacted his ability to do his job.
  • McLaurin said that he sought out professional therapy and medication for his depression, stress and struggles with suicidal thoughts as a result of the way he was treated at Liberty University.

Ultimately, McLaurin was constructively discharged on June 2, 2020.

McLaurin is asking for a trial by jury and is seeking missed pay, benefits and other damages. He did not specify any monetary amounts. He is also requesting that Liberty University teach training courses on discrimination for all employees and supervisory discipline of any employee who engages in discrimination.

A spokesman for Liberty University said the school did not have a statement in response to the lawsuit.

You can read the full lawsuit below:

McLaurin V. LU by WSLS on Scribd

About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.