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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — An instructor has filed a lawsuit against Northwest Christian University in Eugene, alleging the school wrongly fired him while he was on medical leave because of work-related stress.

Johnny Lake, a black man, claims he lost his assistant instructor job in December after facing race-related discrimination at the private, Christian university. The Register-Guard reported .

Lake’s lawsuit describes the school as a predominantly white institution with a reputation for being “unwelcoming” to students of color, female students, nonheterosexual students and students with disabilities.

Northwest Christian University Vice President for Finance and Administration Gene De Young called the suit’s allegations hurtful, unfair and “categorically untrue.”

“We are disappointed that a lawsuit is the path Dr. Lake has chosen to separate from the university,” Gene De Young said in a statement. “To be clear, Northwest Christian University does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. The university has worked in good faith to address Dr. Lake’s concerns over a number of years. Dr. Lake has been a supported and appreciated member of our university community for many years. We wish him the best in the future.”

De Young also said the university never canceled Lake’s employment contract, which calls for Lake to teach through the end of the current school year.

Lake alleges he faced racially offensive and deprecating comments in faculty and group settings at the school, and that he was treated differently than his white colleagues when students complained about him.

Lake took medical leave for work-related stress in June at the advice of his doctor, according to the lawsuit. It states the university “blamed him for his medical issues” and that he learned in March from his insurance benefits provider that the university had informed the company in December that his employment had been terminated.

De Young said Lake has not been fired but acknowledged that his benefits apparently had expired while he was on leave.

Lake seeks $50,000 in economic damages for lost wages, and up to $700,000 to compensate him for emotional distress and suffering.


Information from: The Register-Guard,