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Former Cincinnati health commissioner's discrimination suit against UC moves forward to trial

Judge refuses to dismiss case, sending it to jury
City health director to step down after 10 years
Posted at 4:42 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 23:08:08-04

CINCINNATI — A federal judge ruled that a former Cincinnati health commissioner’s race discrimination lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati will move forward to trial.

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.

He sued UC in 2018 after he was denied the chance to interview for an associate professor job.

“In sum, UC’s argument for summary judgment fails because a reasonable juror could find that its legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not hiring Dr. Maseru is pretextual,” U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland wrote in his order denying UC’s motion for summary judgment on June 16.

When Maseru applied for the associate professor job, he had more than 30 years of experience in the public health field and had been the founding director of the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Master of Public Health Program, according to the order.

While serving as Cincinnati’s health commissioner, Maseru was a volunteer professor at UC and an adjunct associate professor at Wright State University.

After he resigned as health commissioner, 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.”

A spokesperson for UC declined to comment on the pending case.

Court documents from UC’s attorneys reveal that, “Dr. Maseru was not interviewed or hired simply because he was not ranked among the top three candidates. The primary reason for this was because UC determined that Dr. Maseru had a ‘poor record’ of academic research, publications, teaching and administrative experience.”

Maseru took issue with the scoring matrix used to identify which of the top three candidates were granted interviews and maintains that it was manipulated.

He also took issue with the fact that a female candidate was offered a similar assistant professor position, which she declined, when he was not even offered an interview.

“The evidentiary record in this case does little to aid UC’s argument. The various exhibits, score sheets and deposition transcripts … leave many crucial points unanswered,” the judge wrote in his order.

Maseru also noted UC’s president appointed him to serve on a committee to address the historic underrepresentation of minority populations at UC.

“Yet despite the work Dr. Maseru and the committee completed, there were still zero African Americans in the (environmental health) department as late as 2016," according to the judge's order.

Maseru is now at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is professor and Public Health Practice Director for Social Justice, Racial Equity and Faculty Engagement for the Schools of Health Sciences.

No trial date has been set for the lawsuit, which will move forward to trial on both race and gender discrimination claims.