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Former Cincinnati health director's discrimination suit against UC moves forward in court

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 11, 2019

CINCINNATI — A federal magistrate declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former Cincinnati health commissioner who is suing the University of Cincinnati for discrimination after he was denied the chance to interview for an associate professor job.

Noble Maseru served as the city’s health commissioner for 10 years, overseeing 400 people in seven divisions with an annual budget of $49 million. He resigned in May 2016.

A few months later, in October 2016, he applied to be an associate professor of health policy management at the University of Cincinnati.

Maseru met with Dr. Jun Ying, director of UC’s master of public health program, about the job and was told he would “move things along,” according to the lawsuit.

Then on Dec. 2, 2016, Ying informed Maseru that the search committee had decided not to pursue his candidacy.

“Despite (his) qualifications and experience, he was denied the chance to even interview for the position,” the lawsuit states. “Instead of (Maseru), defendant hired a Caucasian male.”

UC has denied the discrimination accusations in court filings.

But UC lawyers asked U.S. District Magistrate Karen Litkovitz to dismiss the lawsuit because Maseru filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2017, which they argued was past deadline.

In a report issued on Wednesday, Litkovitz sided with Maseru.

She wrote that Maseru did file a timely complaint with the EEOC and the discrimination lawsuit should move forward.

Now U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott will make the final decision. But judges routinely follow the recommendations of magistrates.

Maseru filed the discrimination lawsuit against UC in February 2018. He seeks lost income and benefits, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.

Maseru’s lawyer is David Torchia of Tobias, Torchia & Simon, who also represented former city manager Harry Black. He helped negotiate a total buyout from the city worth $544,000 in cash plus benefits, after Black resigned minutes before Cincinnati City Council was set to fire him in April 2018.

Maseru is now a professor and associate dean of diversity in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. He also serves as director of the university’s Center for Health Equity.

“Dr. Maseru devoted his energies to achieving a healthier Cincinnati through establishing strategic partnerships with numerous public, private and grassroots agencies, with the overall goal of elevating the department’s health equity impact on Cincinnati — particularly in vulnerable and underserved populations,” Donald Burke, dean of Pitt Public Health said in a press release announcing Maseru’s hiring in August 2017. “We are delighted to have him join our faculty and bring his expertise to Pittsburgh.”

Previously, Maseru served as director and health officer for the City of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Maseru was the founding director of master for public health program at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.