Labor & Employment

Trial Looms in Hard-Fought Law Prof Sexual Harassment Case at GMU

Updated: She says he sexually harassed her. He says he did nothing wrong.

And nearly a year of hard-fought federal litigation between George Mason University and the two former and current law professors doesn’t seem to have come close to resolving the dispute. After the exchange of some 100,000 documents and 100 hours of depositions, however, the employment discrimination case is scheduled to go to trial in June, the Washington Times reports.

The plaintiff, Kyndra Rotunda, and her well-known husband, constitutional law expert Ronald Rotunda, quit their jobs at GMU over what they and the suit describe as sexual harassment by her supervisor, clinic founder Joseph Zengerle, retaliation when she complained and a lower salary paid to her because she is female.

However, Zengerle’s attorneys contend in court filings that her Eastern District of Virginia suit “alleges no sexual propositions, no sexual gestures, no sexual touching, no obscene jokes or vulgar comments.”

They claim the case revolves around what amounts to a personality conflict between Rotunda and Zengerle, who served as director and executive director, respectively, at the law school’s Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers, the newspaper recounts.

Both have impressive military backgrounds: Zengerle is a West Point graduate and served as an Airborne Ranger Infantry officer in Vietnam and as an assistant secretary of the Air Force before joining GMU. Rotunda was a lawyer in the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Office and served as a prosecutor in the Guantanamo Bay Office of Military Commissions.

A Jonathan Turley blog post about the case last year provides a copy of Kyndra Rotunda’s complaint (PDF).

The 73-page pleading contends that Zengerle—who had no direct supervisory role over Rotunda, according to her job description—made “sexual comments,” inappropriately touched her, yelled at her and interfered with her work, and retaliated against her when she complained about the way he treated her.

Earlier coverage: “Ex-Clinic Director Kyndra Rotunda Sues George Mason for Sexual Harassment”

Updated April 30 to include information from Jonathan Turley blog and clarify and detail the parties’ military background.

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