Some employee lawsuits just won’t go away. Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh is still embroiled in litigation it thought had ended three years ago—because a savvy employee has added new claims to an old sex discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit.
In 2006, attorney and Duquesne Law faculty member Alice Stewart filed an EEOC claim charging another professor with bias and harassment. That faculty member: Kenneth Gormley, who is now the school’s dean.
The EEOC labeled Stewart’s suit a “no cause” claim and dropped the case in 2007.
But Stewart now alleges that Gormley and other university administrators defamed her in retaliation for bringing the suit in the first place. She says the university changed her job title, reduced her pay and relocated her office. Additionally, she charges she was passed over for a job opening that was awarded to a less qualified applicant.
She refiled her suit in August—minus the harassment claim, but with defamation and retaliation claims added on.
Advice: Defamation and retaliation claims are two ways plaintiffs can make weak cases stronger. Protect yourself from such protracted “add-on” litigation by:
- Establishing sound policies and procedures that require investigating all discrimination and harassment complaints. Then follow those policies and procedures every time.
- Telling managers and supervisors to refrain from making any comments about employees who have filed discrimination or harassment complaints. They should never discuss complaints with anyone other than HR or attorneys or executives that have been cleared by HR. Offhand comments in the workplace can only benefit the plaintiff, not the employer.
- Training managers and supervisors to accurately document employee behavior and fairly and professionally address complaints.
- Transfer—without penalty—won't make a retaliation suit
- Do you have employees covered by USERRA? Warning: You could be personally liable for bias
- Don't sweat details if your discipline decision is sound
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