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FAMU ‘thick accent’ case referred to mediation

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A lawsuit against Florida A&M University by a Belize native who claims she was wrongly fired is headed to court-ordered mediation.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker last Friday ordered a mediation report by July 27, and tentatively set a jury trial to begin Oct. 16 if the parties can’t resolve the case.

Glenda McDougall‘s lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit Civil court this August, was transferred to federal court in October, court dockets show.

McDougall says the state’s historically black university wrongly got rid of her, partly because her accent was so thick “no one could understand what she was saying,” according to her complaint.

The complaint says McDougall, who is black, started working at FAMU in 2000 and was let go in August 2014. She says she was the victim of discrimination because of an “actual or perceived disability and (because of) her national origin, Belizean.”

McDougall had been working for the school’s Parking Services but needed a transfer to a sit-down job after injuring her knee.

She was moved to the university’s Communication Center as a dispatcher without any issues, the suit said.

But after she asked for time off, supervisors told her she could no longer work there because “no one could understand” her.

The school has denied the allegations in the suit, adding that McDougall “voluntarily resigned or retired from her position and therefore suffered no adverse employment action.”

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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