A former professor for USC's School of Dentistry is suing his ex-employer, alleging he was fired in 2017 in retaliation for complaining that most of his freshman students' grades were altered by a supervisor without his consent.
Jucheng Chen's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed Jan. 16, names as defendants USC, School of Dentistry Associate Dean Mahvash Navazeh and Division Chairman Casey Chen, who is unrelated to the plaintiff.
The suit alleges wrongful termination, retaliation and age discrimination. Chen seeks unspecified damages.
Local news from across Southern California
A USC representative said he might have a comment later.
Chen was hired in December 1997, served as an assistant professor for clinical dentistry for 20 years and regularly received positive performance evaluations, the suit states.
In April 2017, Chen found out that most of the grades he had given to his freshman dental class had been ``significantly altered without his consent," the suit states without elaborating whether the marks were raised, lowered or both.
Chen initially thought the grade changes were caused by hacking and so he immediately reported his concerns to the university's information technology department, the suit states. Chen's freshman grades had never been changed before and were given according to USC's grading criteria and procedures, the suit states.
Other USC dentistry school faculty members told Chen that none of their student grades were changed, the suit states.
A day after he reported his concerns, the IT department told Chen that Navazeh ordered the altering of the grades, according to the lawsuit.
Chen complained about the grade changes to multiple USC faculty members, including Casey Chen, the suit states, arguing that the plaintiff informed them that the alterations were "a form of fraud" and "patently illegal."
All but one faculty member seemed unmoved by Chen's complaints and blocked his efforts to pursue the issue further, prompting him to send a written complaint to the USC Office of Academic Affairs, the suit states.
Ten days later, Chen received a letter stating that he was being fired as of June 2017 despite his two decades of work, the suit states.
Navazeh and Casey Chen told the plaintiff that his firing had nothing to do with his complaints about the alleged grade changes, but they refused to provide him an explanation for the alterations and "wished him well in his future endeavors," according to the suit.
Chen also maintains his firing was related to him being more than 40 years old.