LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A discrimination lawsuit filed by a woman against the Getty Foundation alleges she was denied an undergraduate internship with the institution because she is white.

In the lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Samantha Niemann accused Getty of violating her civil rights, racial discrimination and
harassment as well as retaliation. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the suit, Niemann “was deterred from applying” for the foundation’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program in Feb. 2015 after being told only black, Asian, Latino, Native-American and Pacific Islander candidates were eligible.

Niemann — who is of German, Irish and Italian descent — was told by a Getty Foundation representative that she was disqualified from applying
because of her race and national origin, the suit states.

A student at Southern Utah University with a 3.7 grade-point average, the lawsuit argues Neimann was “well-qualified” for the internship.

According to the Getty Foundation’s website, the Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program is aimed at encouraging “greater diversity in the professions related to museums and the visual arts.”

The program supports “substantive, full-time summer work opportunities for college undergraduates from cultural backgrounds that have traditionally been underrepresented in the arts,” the website states.

Ron Hartwig, vice president of communications for the J. Paul Getty Trust, issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, which read in part: “Over the past 23 years Getty grants have supported over 3,000 internships at 152 organizations throughout the county. We review and revise all of our grant categories from time to time and over the years have made a number of policy and procedural changes to the internship program.”

Several months ago – due to inquiries from potential applicants as well as internal and external discussions – the Getty modified the eligibility criteria for 2016 to state that applicants must be members of an underrepresented group, including but not limited to, those of black, Asian, Latino, Native-American or Pacific-Islander descent, according to Hartwig.

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