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After demotion, Brandeis employee files discrimination suit against the school

A Brandeis University employee has filed a $2 million-plus discrimination lawsuit against the school, alleging she was unfairly demoted after the men’s basketball coach was fired following complaints of racism and unprofessional behavior.

In the lawsuit, filed in Middlesex Superior Court, Robin Nelson-Bailey, a 43-year-old black woman who lives in Framingham, said she was “discriminated and retaliated against based on her gender and race.”

A Brandeis spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit on Monday.

In May 2017, six students submitted a formal complaint against Brian Meehan, the university’s men’s basketball head coach. The complaint included allegations of nepotism, unprofessional behavior, emotionally abusive conduct, and racial discrimination, according to Nelson-Bailey’s lawsuit.

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As the Waltham school’s vice president of human resources, Nelson-Bailey met with the students and reviewed the university’s “non-discrimination policies, anti-retaliation policies, and rights of appeals with them,” the lawsuit said.

In mid-November of that year, Nelson-Bailey met with the students to let them know Brandeis had disciplined Meehan but could not provide details because of “confidentiality surrounding employment action pertaining to discipline.”

In April 2018, another student came forth with allegations of racial discrimination against Meehan, according to the lawsuit.

Deadspin first reported the allegations of abusive and racist behavior against Meehan. T he school announced he was fired on April 5, 2018.

Last September, Nelson-Bailey was told that she was being demoted in title, salary and benefits “based on her involvement in the internal investigation” of Meehan, according to the lawsuit. Nelson-Bailey was told she could either appeal that decision or resign, the lawsuit stated.

Nelson-Bailey claimed that male employees, including her supervisor, were not assigned “any modicum of blame for how the investigation was handled,” despite their “deep involvement in the investigation and noted instances of poor judgment.”

“Ms. Nelson-Bailey was also the only woman of color on the leadership team and was the sole Human Resources employee who was singled out and faced demotion after involvement in this investigation,” the lawsuit stated.

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“She was a scapegoat in this investigation and the irreparable damage that was done to her reputation is something that we seek to reclaim,” her lawyer, Matthew J. Fogelman said in an interview.

Nelson-Bailey still works for Brandeis as its assistant vice president for special projects in the school’s human resources department.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.