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Job bias lawsuits cost Cal State $7.6 million

December 12, 2007|Larry Gordon | Times Staff Writer

The Cal State University system spent $5.3 million in outside legal fees to defend itself against employment discrimination lawsuits and $2.3 million to settle such cases over the five years ending in June, according to a report issued Tuesday by the state auditor.

Of the 92 bias suits filed against the university in that time, 40 led to payouts by the school and 28 were still in process, the audit found. Most of the settlements were for $50,000 or less.

The report's tally, however, did not include two decisions against Fresno State that the university is appealing.

Last week, a jury awarded $19.1 million to Fresno State's former women's basketball coach for suffering bias and retaliation that led to her firing three years ago. In October, a judge reduced a jury award but still gave the coach of the women's volleyball team $4.5 million for gender discrimination.

The auditor's findings, which were part of a report requested by the Legislature, offered no recommendations about how the state university should handle such lawsuits or whether it might be facing too many of them.

State audit officials said that would have been beyond the report's fact-finding mission. The 23-campus university contends that the rate of lawsuits is less than other public systems its size.

The auditor's study did urge Cal State to adopt systemwide policies to improve its search for women and minority candidates in hiring professors and administrators. Among other things, it urged putting more women and minorities on search committees.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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