Former Iowa City schools custodian sues district, claims discrimination

Le claims he wasn't promoted because English was not his first language

A former night custodian for the Iowa City Community School District has filed a lawsuit against the district claiming he was passed over for a promotion because English was not his first language.

Hung Le moved to the United States from Vietnam in the 1970s and was hired as a night custodian for the Iowa City school district in 2007, according to the lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court.

In August 2010, according to the lawsuit, Le applied for an internal transfer within the district for one of two night custodial positions at different schools that would have come with a promotion. Le, in the suit, states that district officials informed him he was “not suited” for the job because English was not his first language.

Two white males applied for the same positions, and Le alleges in the lawsuit that they were “less qualified” than he was for the jobs. Still, he states, they were hired and he was passed over.

Le argues in the lawsuit that his English is “very good” and that during his three-plus years with the district making the lower wage, “there had been no complaints regarding his English ability.”

Le is claiming the school district discriminated against him, violating Iowa Code, by failing to promote him and instead hiring two men with lesser qualifications, according to the lawsuit. Le in the suit states that he presented his case to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which issued a “right to sue” letter to the district.

Le says he has suffered “substantial income loss” over what he would have received had he been promoted, according to the lawsuit, and he’s asking to be compensated for financial and emotional damages.

Ross Wilburn, equity director for the Iowa City Community School District, said he can’t comment about the specifics of the lawsuit because of the pending litigation. But, he said, the district does have an equity policy “not to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, disability or socioeconomic status in its educational programs, activities or employment practices.”

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