Labor & Employment

Ex-Law Prof Alleges Harassment by Duquesne Law Dean

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Updated: A former clinical law instructor at Duquesne claims in a lawsuit that the school’s present dean, Kenneth Gormley, retaliated against her because she accused him of sexual harassment when he was a law professor in 2006.

The lawsuit by former instructor Alice Stewart is the second discrimination suit filed against Duquesne University’s law school this month. The other, filed by law professor Vanessa Browne-Barbour, claims the school failed to consider her for the deanship that Gormley won, even though she was associate law dean at the time. The school is denying allegations in both lawsuits.

The suit filed Tuesday by Alice Stewart says she filed a 2006 complaint against Gormley with the school claiming sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, report the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. According to the suit (PDF) filed in Pennsylvania federal court, a school compliance officer found in Stewart’s favor, but the university obtained an opinion by outside counsel attempting to reject the findings. Afterward, Gormley was promoted to interim and then permanent dean of the law school.

Stewart, on the other hand, says her career suffered after she made the allegations, and retaliation is to blame. The retaliatory acts alleged include an internal audit of her handling of grant funds, a demotion, a cut in pay, and a banishment to an office outside the law school building.

According to the suit, Duquesne has offered tenure-track status to a full-time clinical faculty member just once, and that person was a white male who earned $40,000 a year more than Stewart, who was denied such a position.

The school “is engaged in an ongoing pattern and practice of disparate treatment in tenure-track status and compensation for female professionals employed in its clinical education programs,” the complaint alleges.

A spokeswoman for Duquesne responded to the coverage of Stewart’s complaint and noted that the dispute involves a matter that Gormley reported to his superior in 2006 concerning an alleged violation of university policy. “The alleged charge in question that forms the basis of Stewart’s complaint, was not sexual in nature and has nothing to do with ‘sexual harassment’ as commonly understood,” said Bridget Fare, assistant vice president of public affairs for the school.

“The University is committed to gender equity and does not tolerate sexual harassment,” Fare said. “Duquesne flatly denies Ms. Stewart’s allegations, intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit, and is confident that it will prevail.”

Fare said that Stewart’s charge has been investigated by the EEOC and was dismissed with a “no cause” determination in 2007.

Gormley has written a book about the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations that alleges prosecutorial mishaps and another affair by former President Bill Clinton.

Last updated Aug. 2 to add comments from Duquesne.

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