Federal Jury Clears Harvard of Race, Gender Discrimination

April 5, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal court jury in Boston has cleared Harvard University of discriminating against a library assistant who had charged she wasn't promoted because she was seen as "a pretty girl" whose attire was too "sexy."

Plaintiff Desiree Goodwin, who is black, also claimed that Harvard failed to promote her because of her race, the Associated Press reported. “One of my friends said to me, no matter how it turns out, standing up for yourself is a victory in itself,” Goodwin said after the verdict, according to the AP.

Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said the university was pleased with the ruling. “Employment at Harvard is based on the specific work skills and work history applicants bring to specific jobs,” he said, according to the news report. “We have always believed that to be the case and today the jury has agreed.”

Goodwin, who has worked as a library assistant at Harvard since 1994, claimed in the lawsuit that she had been rejected for seven promotions at the library since 1999. In court documents, Goodwin said her supervisor told her she was “a joke” at the university’s main library, where she “was seen merely as a pretty girl who wore sexy outfits, low cut blouses, and tight pants.”

But Harvard attorney Richard Riley said Goodwin’s supervisors encouraged her, helped her with her resume and recommended her for other positions.

Goodwin’s claims were dismissed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.