Professor says she was forced out after discrimination complaint

A college professor at Colorado State University has filed a lawsuit against the university, two top administrators and a man she says sexually harassed her and then retaliated when she complained. Unfortunately, the complaint claims this is not an isolated incident.

A report published this March by university personnel found "gender-based inequities at both interpersonal and institutional levels," along with an "erratic, unfair, and inconsistently applied" evaluation process for female faculty members.

Here the plaintiff, a tenure-track professor, was told she was told by the Tenure and Promotion Committee that her performance was good in all respects, she claims in her complaint. That was the case until she approached her supervisor with allegations of sexual harassment by another professor who was a member of that committee.

According to the Courthouse News Service, the woman felt the other professor was continually staring at her chest in sexual manner. Whether that legally constitutes sexual harassment is open to question, but the professor claims that her complaint was made in good faith.

Tenure and Promotion Committee member points to retaliation

Unfortunately, things appeared to get out of hand when the supervisor told the other professor about the complaint. She quickly began to feel a chill in the air as her colleagues' attitudes toward her changed.

The alleged sexual harasser stopped inviting the plaintiff to meetings, even when they related to her own research or to the graduate students she advised. He also asked her to remove herself from a student's Ph.D. committee because she made him "feel uncomfortable." Next, the woman received a negative performance review.

The Tenure and Promotion Committee was still planning to recommend her for tenure in 2015 -- until the other professor told them she "had treated him hatefully," which led other members to believe she had done something wrong. According to the lawsuit, a member of that committee stated that it was the retaliation that "ruined her once thriving career" at the university.

The campaign of retaliation continued in 2016, when the school's Board of Governors refused to release the research money she needed to pay her graduate students until they received her resignation

The woman felt she had no choice but to seek opportunities elsewhere. She is now an assistant professor in computer science in Florida.

Do you still have a retaliation claim if you quit?

You certainly can. Sometimes, as in the allegations here, you have no option but to quit. In many circumstances, this is called "constructive termination" and being forced to quit can be considered wrongful termination.

If you believe you have a discrimination, harassment or retaliation claim, we urge you to reach out to an attorney.