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Florida A&M University Under Fire in Latest Age Discrimination Lawsuit

— February 12, 2019

Veteran professor Charles Magee, 70, is suing Florida A&M University and others over allegations of age discrimination and retaliation after his contract was reduced from 12 months to nine months.

Florida A&M University is being sued by one of its veteran professors over allegations of age discrimination. According to the professor, Charles Magee, 70, the alleged age discrimination was a “factor in his 12-month contract being reduced to nine months and a pay cut.” In addition to the school, the suit also names “President Larry Robinson and College of Agriculture and Food Sciences Dean Robert Taylor” as defendants. His suit further argues that Robinson and Taylor violated his free speech “after he testified in a lawsuit involving a FAMU drum major who died after being hazed.”

Filed late last week by Marie Mattox, an attorney in Tallahassee, the suit seeks more than $15,000 in damages and a jury trial.

Prior to the lawsuit, Magee worked as a professor of biological systems engineering at the university. He began working with the school in October 1995 “as an administrator and associate professor” and worked his way up the ladder. In 1996, he was promoted to tenured professor and spent the next few years earning “favorable reviews” and helped generate “$2 million in grants for the university.” However, the suit claims that during his employment, he “has been and continues to be subjected to disparate treatment, different terms and conditions of employment, and is held to different standards because of his age.”

Florida A&M University
Florida A&M University; image courtesy of Porkn305 via Wikimedia Commons,

The poor treatment really kicked up a notch “following testimony he gave in a lawsuit filed against the university by the parents of FAMU drum major Robert Champion.” Champion was a former drum major who tragically passed away in November 2011 following a hazing incident after an Orlando band performance. Eventually, the university reached a $1.1 million settlement with his family.

Later on, in August 2015, Magee was subpoenaed to testify in the Champion case. During his testimony, he said that on November 8, 2001, his son was “involved in such an incident with the Marching 100 and had suffered trauma and emotional distress.” He also noted during his testimony that he had “alerted former band director and music department chair Julian White about the incident on Nov. 20, 2001.” Prior to his testimony, the university maintained that it “had no previous knowledge of hazing activities.

Two weeks after the deposition, a student allegedly “delivered a letter to Magee from Taylor, saying that his 12-month contract was being reduced to nine months.” Upon talking to Taylor about the matter, he was told the contract reduction was due to budget cuts and “the need to hire new faculty.” As a result, Magee’s salary dropped from $105,850 to $86,598, “the lowest salary for any engineering professor at FAMU on a nine-month contract.”

Understandably upset about the pay cut, Magee emailed Provost Marcella David for a deeper explanation. Instead of a response from the provost, Taylor responded and simply said “all academic programs had been ordered to reduce costs.” He also added that the “12-month to nine-month contract reduction was an attempt to not have to cut positions.”

However, it didn’t take long for Magee to pick up on something. According to his suit, “only older employee’s contracts were reduced, including three others between the ages of 61 to 74.”

To make matters worse, a few months later on November 14, 2016, Taylor allegedly told Magee. “We need young bright faculty who can come in and move our programs forward in keeping up with the 21st century.”

At the moment, neither sides of the aisle have commented on the pending litigation.


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