SAN FRANCISCO—A lawsuit that was filed in June and amended Tuesday, August 1, accuses San Francisco State University officials of allowing an administrator to remain on staff even though there is evidence that she subjected another employee to racist treatment and harassment.
The plaintiff, DeMauriae Vaughn, who is an academic adviser at the school, claims that his former manager, Karen Rubin, evoked Confederate imagery during work interactions and displayed a portrait of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in her office.
In one incident Rubin allegedly referred to Vaughn as a “runaway slave” when he took the day off according to one of his colleagues. Rubin also instructed Vaughn to read a book about a white man teaching “manners and respect” to Black children. Rubin denied that she ever harassed Vaughn or called him a “runaway slave.” She claims that her comments had been misinterpreted.
In another incident that occurred back in 2019 Rubin threatened to get Vaughn “under control” the same way Stephen Douglas did, according to one of his colleagues. Stephen Douglas was a U.S. congressman who argued states should have authority to allow slavery within its borders.
Allegedly, Vaughn was also instructed to greet Rubin every morning when other employees were not required to do so.
Vaughn made complaints about Rubin’s behavior but was repeatedly ignored. He eventually hired a Berkeley law firm to investigate the allegations. Oppenheimer Investigations Group LLP, discovered that Rubin engaged in “unwelcome conduct based on Vaughn’s race,” and that it was “sufficiently severe and pervasive.” The Investigation also determined that Rubin racially harassed Vaughn which is violation of university policy but did not “discriminate” against him or make false statements about him.
Even after the investigation confirmed Rubin was harassing Vaughn, university officials decided to keep Rubin as an employee for “several more months until she left of her own accord.”
“The administrator resigned from her position shortly before the investigation was finalized and before any personnel action could be taken,” a SFSU statement read. “The University also took immediate steps to remediate the workplace environment while the investigation was ongoing. Had the administrator not resigned, the university would have terminated her.”
According to Vaughn’s lawyer, Camron Dowlatshahi, “the campus did not initiate an investigation into her [Rubin] misconduct until October of 2021 — two years after Mr. Vaughn’s initial complaints and three months after he submitted a written complaint.”
Vaughn says that the experiences with Rubin and SFSU’s unwillingness to take his complaints seriously caused him to have panic attacks. Rubin threatened to fire Vaughn when he took a medical leave for his panic attacks in January 2020. This threat caused him to say on for another year, the suit says. Vaughn returned from leave in February 2021 after he had been working remotely because of the pandemic but the harassment ensued.
According to an investigative report delivered back in May of 2022 she initially expressed remorse for having offended anyone but, she became defensive and evasive when questioned about culturally or racially insensitive comments attributed to her.