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The Daily Tar Heel

Discrimination Ruling Reversed

The State Personnel Commission reversed Administrative Law Judge Sammie Chess' June 21 decision in which Chess found that UNC employee Bobbie Sanders had been wrongfully passed over for promotion on the basis of her age and gender.

In a 53-page statement, the commission found that no discrimination occurred against Sanders and ordered that the Office of State Personnel conduct an investigation into UNC's hiring practices.

"Despite the Commission's ultimate finding that no illegal discrimination occurred, the Commission wishes to express its concern about the possible improprieties in the unstructured hiring process that apparently occurred," the commission stated in its decision.

But Sanders' lawyer, Al McSurely, said he was distressed that the decision was overturned and that he did not feel the study was enough to rectify his client's situation. "(Chess) is a very distinguished judge -- a trained law judge who has been an administrative law judge for about 15 years, who they dissed in about 10 minutes," McSurely said. "We will appeal this immediately ... and ask him to overturn this. One of the parts of the appeal will be that the State Personnel Commission did not review the whole record, which they are required to do by law."

Several members of the commission did not return phone calls Monday night.

Sanders was employed in the Office of Research Services at UNC as a computer systems administrator when she applied for a promotion in 1999.

Members of the department interviewed three candidates for the position, including Sanders. Andy Johns, a man in his mid-20s, ultimately was awarded the job. Sanders was 47 at the time.

Sanders then sued for sex and age discrimination, claiming that she was not ever seriously considered for the position. But the commission's decision based its findings on the testimony of Mark Crowell, one of Sanders' supervisors.

"UNC-CH has, through the testimony of Mark Crowell, articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for promoting Mr. Johns rather than (Sanders)," the decision states.

McSurely said he was disappointed with the decision and that he hoped to see it reversed again on appeal. "(The commission) just had a totally different way of viewing the case."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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