West Virginia Record

Sunday, February 16, 2020

New River Community College again named in discrimination suit

By Lawrence Smith | Sep 29, 2011

BECKLEY – For the second time in recent months, a southern West Virginia community college is accused of racial discrimination.

New River Community and Technical College is named in job discrimination suit filed by Richard L. Bibbs in U.S. District Court. In his complaint filed Aug. 1, Bibbs, 53, alleges he was passed over for employment eight times in the course of a year all due to either his race and/or gender.

Bibbs's suit was filed just over a month after a former New River grant writer filed suit in Kanawha Circuit Court alleging she was fired early last year because of her race and gender.

Coming up empty

In his suit, Bibbs, a resident of Glen Jean in Fayette County, applied for eight positions with New River between October 2009 and Sept. 27, 2010. Among them were financial aide counselor, administrative secretary, human resources representative and human resources assistant III.

According to his suit, Bibbs, who is black, applied for the financial aide position shortly after it was made public in December 2009. He was never contacted for an interview, and later learned the position was given to "a less qualified white female."

The next month, Bibbs says he applied for the human resources representative position. Again, he maintains he was not interviewed, and learned the position was give to "a less qualified white female."
Later on April 16, 2010, Bibbs filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Five days later he received a letter informing him they opened an investigation.

In the meantime, Bibbs applied the administrative secretary position after it was posted in August 2010. Though he was interviewed this time, Bibbs alleges he was passed over for "a less qualified black female."

Undaunted, Bibbs maintains he applied for the human resources assistant position shortly after it was posted on Sept. 25, 2010. Like before, Bibbs alleges, despite meeting the minimum qualifications necessary, he was never called for an interview, and learned the position was filled by "a less qualified white female."

Also, Bibbs alleges New River's Human Resources Director Leah Taylor, and President Ted D. Spring deliberately passed him over for the human resources assistant position in retaliation for his OFCCP complaint. Both Taylor and Spring are named as co-defendants in the suit.

Attached to Bibbs' suit is a letter dated May 13 from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Cleveland field office. The letter informed him despite finding no probable cause to his complaint of discrimination, he could still bring a suit against New River in the next 90 days.

Along with a finding that New River did discriminate against him, Bibbs seeks damages totaling $1.3 million, and court costs. He is representing himself.

The case is assigned to Judge Irene C. Berger.

Firing based on race, gender

On June 29, Margo LaTonya Brooks, also of Fayette County, filed her suit against New River. In it, she alleged the college created a hostile working environment by allowing fellow employees to make inappropriate remarks about her race and gender.

Also, despite being the victim, Brooks alleges she was fired from her position as a grant writer due to the remarks. According to her suit, Brooks worked as a grant writer, and consultant for either New River or its associated foundation from 2008 until Jan. 10, 2010.

The Foundation is named as a co-defendant in Brooks' suit.

Established in 2003 by a merger of the community college components from Glenville and Bluefield State colleges, New River provides two-year associate degrees to students in Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers, and Webster counties. It has campuses in Beckley, Princeton, Lewisburg and Summersville.

The Foundation was part of the merger, and serves as independent, non-profit fundraising arm for the college.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 11-cv-519 (Bibbs); Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 11-C-1092 (Brooks)

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