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Newsletter > October 2023 > "MSU Put on Notice of Shooting Victims’ Intents to Sue"
MSU Put on Notice of Shooting Victims’ Intents to Sue
Haellie Gordon, Fraternal Law Partners, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Delta Zeta Sorority and its Sigma Chapter of Delta Zeta House Corporation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana have found themselves among many named defendants in an employment discrimination suit arising from events taking place at Louisiana State University’s campus during late 2021 and into 2022.
Bernadine Williams was a Black chef with over twenty-six (26) years of experience in the industry when she began working as a House Chef for College Fresh, Inc. (“College Fresh”) at the Delta Zeta Chapter at LSU. A few months after taking on the role at the Delta Zeta house, Suzette Says took over as the Food Coordinator for the Chapter. Williams is now suing Says, the Delta Zeta Sorority, the national and local house corporations, and College Fresh, alleging that she experienced a hostile work environment, mostly due to how she was treated by Says.2
Williams’ Complaint asserts that Says was difficult to work with, going as far as ignoring Williams, communicating to her only through third parties, and refusing to refer to Williams by Williams’ name. Perhaps most egregious is the allegation that, at a chapter meeting with over one hundred (100) attendees, including student members, Williams asserts that Says stated, “I would prefer if we had a white chef.”
Further, the Complaint claims that Says retaliated against Williams for filing three formal grievances about Says to both Delta Zeta and College Fresh by demoting Williams’ title, which resulted in reduced hours and pay to Williams. However, the Complaint acknowledges that Says believed that working with Williams was like “walking on eggshells.”
Williams also seeks to hold the corporate defendants—Delta Zeta, the national and local house corporations, and College Fresh—liable for failing to adequately address the issues Williams was experiencing. To this end, the Complaint asserts that all named defendants “created and maintained a hostile environment on the basis of race…by not stopping the racially discriminatory harassment of Williams…removing [her] as head chef…and thereafter reassigning and demoting [her].”
Delta Zeta representatives have already responded publicly, stating that they would “never discriminate against anyone based on protected characteristics.”3 Meanwhile, College Fresh has responded to the Complaint by filing a motion to dismiss on the basis that Williams filed her Complaint too late, as it was filed more than ninety (90) days after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued “Notice of Right to Sue” letters to Williams. We anticipate that the Delta Zeta defendants will respond similarly, moving to dismiss the complaint on account of the untimeliness of the Complaint.
Regardless of what happens with this lawsuit, which may be decided not on its merits but on a technical issue, fraternities and sororities across the nation continue to be expected to enact various DEI policies and procedures. But there must also be a commitment to actually implementing and applying those policies if the policies are going to serve any real purpose. Further, whenever complaints are received suggesting potential impropriety, particularly as it relates to hostile work environments, these matters must be properly investigated to prevent further exacerbations of underlying issues.
 Haellie Gordon is a law clerk at Manley Burke and is a third-year law student at the University of Cincinnati.
3 Matt Bruce, Former Chef Sues LSU Sorority, Claims Food Coordinator Wanted a ‘White Chef,’ Advocate (April 28, 2023), https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/courts/ex-lsu-sorority-house-chef-files-racial-discrimination-suit/article_1cdf4476-e466-11ed-8765-4f426ab7559b.html.
 As explained in College Fresh’s pending Motion to Dismiss, “Title VII claims must be filed within 90 days of the plaintiff’s receipt of the right to sue notice provided by the EEOC. The 90-day period is strictly construed and a court may dismiss a lawsuit filed after the period expires.” Here, Williams filed her Complaint ninety-eight (98) days after the EEOC issued the right to sue letters, meaning the Complaint was filed outside the timeframe for doing so.