Ex-UC Irvine Assistant Professor Loses Anti-Gay Discrimination Lawsuit

Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse (Photo by R. Scott Moxley)

Early last year, onetime UC Irvine assistant professor Hung Nguyen sued his employer and members of the university management for denying him tenure because he is gay.

But this week, a federal judge in Orange County formally rejected the lawsuit before it could reach a jury trial inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.

In a 17-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna opined that Nguyen—once an award-winning member of UCI’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science—failed to adequately support his discrimination and retaliation contentions.

“The defendants argue that Nguyen cannot establish facts to show discrimination because Nguyen admits that he has no information that three of the defendants had any knowledge of Nguyen’s sexual orientation prior to the lawsuit,” Selna, a President George W. Bush appointee, wrote in his summary judgment ruling for the defense. “They [also] argue that Nguyen presents no evidence that any of the defendants based their recommendation on anything other than the information in Nguyen’s tenure file and UCI’s normal criteria for tenure decisions.”

Nguyen asserted that because his department recommended him for tenure by a vote of 10-2 in May 2015, others on staff believed he’d been treated unfairly and performed objectively satisfactory work, then the motive for denying tenure must have been illegitimate and discriminatory.

Though university management insisted in depositions they were unaware of Nguyen’s sexual orientation, he said he frequently introduced his boyfriend to UCI employees and their spouses over the years.

Selna topped off the blow to Nguyen by ordering him to pay the university’s legal bill.

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