Omi Salas-SantaCruz, a former UC Berkeley employee and doctoral student in the Berkeley School of Education, filed a lawsuit against campus and School of Education professor Patricia Baquedano-López on Nov. 17, alleging discrimination on the basis of their nonbinary identity.
Salas-SantaCruz began working at UC Berkeley on Sept. 2, 2014, at Berkeley Law, later joining the School of Education’s Laboratory for the Study of Interaction and Discourse in Education Research, or L-SIDER; UC Berkeley Summer Sessions on a part-time basis; and the Multicultural Community Center, or MCC, as director and fellow. They claim they took their position at the center after being denied other job opportunities.
Salas-SantaCruz alleged that despite being named an “Outstanding Instructor,” they were not granted the same research and laboratory opportunities as their peers in L-SIDER and the MCC following their gender-affirming transition in May 2016. They were terminated in May 2017.
They were notified of instances of alleged mocking from peers on the basis of their identity, including gossip referring to them as “it” and “a thing” while working at L-SIDER.
Baquedano-López, who served as principal investigator of L-SIDER, allegedly called Salas-SantaCruz “it” and warned colleagues to be careful of them. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Baquedano-López was “sabotaging” their letters of recommendation and asked them to commit voucher fraud.
David Ratner, Salas-SantaCruz’s attorney, said the lawsuit is taking place after other attempts by the plaintiff to take action against Baquedano-López and former campus assistant professor Michael Dumas, who they say did not accommodate their disability.
“The details of the case are laid out pretty clearly in the legal filing, but that only tells part of the story,” Ratner said. “Berkeley’s Title IX Office of Civil Rights did an investigation into Omi’s complaints.”
Salas-SantaCruz and three other students met with School of Education Dean Prudence Carter to discuss Baquedano-López’s conduct and begin an investigation in October 2018, according to the complaint.
The dean’s office sided with Baquedano-López, according to the lawsuit. An external investigation confirmed sexual harassment and an abuse of power from Baquedano-Lopez, as well as denial of disability accommodations from Dumas, the lawsuit added.
Salas-SantaCruz alleged they continued to experience discrimination through May 2022, when they had their exit interview and Dumas was fired.
UC Berkeley is still looking over the case, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.
As of press time, Baquedano-López and Dumas did not respond to requests for comment.
“We are reviewing the matter and will reserve comment for now but want to make clear that the university is committed to providing a respectful and productive work environment for all members of our campus community,” campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email.