Pennsylvania State University Committed Race-based Harassment Against Caucasians

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In the DE PIERO v. Pennsylvania State University, Dist. Court, ED Pennsylvania 2024 – Google Scholar, De Piero, a former writing professor at Penn State, sued the university for alleged racial discrimination, creation of a hostile work environment, retaliation for protected speech, and violation of state human relations laws. He claimed that race-based policies and training sessions at the university were discriminatory against him as a white individual, affecting his grading practices, performance evaluations, and leading to what he perceived as forced resignation.


The court found some of De Piero’s claims, particularly regarding a hostile work environment, plausible enough to proceed, while dismissing others, emphasizing the nuanced balance between addressing racism and avoiding discriminatory practices against any group.

The complaints included:

  • Mandatory diversity training sessions that he felt singled him out as a white male.
  • Evaluations and feedback on his work that he believed were unfairly critical, attributing this to his race rather than his performance.
  • Interactions with colleagues and superiors made him feel marginalized and unsupported, again linking this treatment to his race.

These instances contributed to his feeling of a hostile work environment, leading to his decision to resign and subsequently file the lawsuit.


For HR professionals, this case underscores the importance of:

  • Implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives carefully to ensure they do not inadvertently create a perception of reverse discrimination.
  • Providing clear guidelines on how to incorporate diversity into educational and evaluative practices without compromising objectivity or fairness.
  • Ensuring that all employees feel heard and that their concerns are addressed fairly and transparently.
  • Documenting complaints, investigations, and outcomes thoroughly to provide a clear record in case of disputes.
  • Training on the legal implications of diversity policies and practices to prevent potential lawsuits.


De Piero’s case against Penn State serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the importance of balanced, thoughtful approaches to diversity and inclusion efforts in academia and beyond.

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