A professor at a law school has filed a suit against his former employer after what he says was a string of retaliatory actions that took place when he reported seeing some questionable behavior at an event. Specifically the professor witnessed the dean of the law school touch the back of a female assistant dean, an act which both the professor and his wife described as “creepy” and “unnerving”. There was one other report of the same dean making comments that made a female staff member uncomfortable as well.
After that incident, the professor reported the issue to the dean’s immediate supervisor who raised the issue with the dean. The result was not favorable and the dean who allegedly harassed the other faculty member called the reporting a betrayal, according to the lawsuit. Various incidents followed that the professor found to be retaliatory, including giving him busywork and not considering him for a newly created position.
Eventually the professor resigned, saying that he was constructively fired because of the treatment he faced after reporting the perceived misconduct.
This case shows how subtle sexual harassment can be in the workplace and how conduct that may seem acceptable to one person could be perceived as threatening or inappropriate by others. In this case it seems possible that a person in a position of power did not appreciate that his actions could be unwelcome by those who worked for him. It is also an example of subtle types of retaliation that can make a person’s job untenable and cause them to quit rather than to stay. This does not waive the right to seek a remedy under employment law, but rather serves as evidence of the extent of the retaliation.
Source: ABA Journal, “Law prof claims dean retaliated after he reported ‘creepy’ back rub, sexual flirting at party,” Debra Cassens Weiss, Oct. 24, 2013.