Discrimination lawsuit against university to go to trial in October
Sara Kubik has a message for women interested in applying for faculty positions at Central Michigan University: Don't.
"I think CMU should be ashamed of themselves," she said. "I would say this to any woman coming here who wants to have a family or has a family — do not apply to this institution."
In June 2015, Kubik, a journalism faculty member, filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court against CMU and several staff members for sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. The case is now in its discovery phase, meaning both parties are gathering evidence. The discovery deadline ends April 4.
Kubik is seeking declaration of unlawful action, compensatory damages, attorney fees and other relief as the court deems necessary. She remains a faculty member at CMU.
She submitted forms requesting time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act in 2013, asking for a tenure clock extension to accommodate her pregnancy. According to court documents, the university denied violating federal or state law when it refused to grant tenure to Kubik who was "not performing adequately."
Among those named in the lawsuit are former College of Communication and Fine Arts Interim Dean Shelly Hinck, former Journalism Department Chair Maria Marron, journalism faculty Lori Brost and Tim Boudreau and the CMU Board of Trustees.
She previously filed internal complaints regarding three faculty members, including Marron and Brost. CMU dismissed the complaints against Brost and the other faculty member, but admitted Marron discriminated against Kubik. Marron harassed her about work during her medical leave, Kubik claimed, and told the former dean she was not inclined to grant Kubik's tenure extension.
According to the results of the internal complaint, Marron referred to Kubik's pregnancy as a "sticky wicket." She admitted to emailing Kubik while she was still in the hospital after delivering her baby. Marron also admitted that it was her practice to share Kubik's personal family situations with faculty. The university did not find Marron's conduct was prohibited with respect to Kubik's non-reappointment.
Marron, Brost, Hinck and Boudreau were contacted for comment on this story. Boudreau declined to comment. The others did not respond.
Kubik said CMU now denies the original findings of discrimination by the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity. During discovery, the university's attorney, Bob Vercruysse, asked for the last 20 years of Kubik's employment records, law school records and personal emails through Yahoo. On Dec. 23, CMU was denied access to her personal email account. Vercruysse said the discovery process has been "normal."
"She's alleged emotional damages," he said. "In her case if she's gone to a psychologist you would discover those records."
Kubik's attorney, Kathleen Bogas, asked for the internal complaints she originally filed during discovery, but was not granted access to them. Kubik said she was sent documents CMU says are internal investigation files.
Kubik said the university's findings surrounding her internal complaints, and how it doesn't match up to its findings in the lawsuit demonstrate a message CMU is communicating.
"They're saying, 'It's all her fault,'" she said. "Many people have said this department is toxic. It's very polarized. I sit across from these people I filed a federal lawsuit against."
Deposition will begin before the discovery deadline. This allows each side to depose the other, meaning both are allowed to ask questions to get testimony on the record, usually used to discredit someone during trial. The defense also can file for summary judgment, in which the judge will decide if a jury needs to hear the case at a trial, which is scheduled for October.
Kubik filed an internal grievance related to her reappointment, which resulted in binding arbitration, which means it will not be resolved in front of a judge. Vercruysse is representing the university here as well. The grievance will likely be handled before the discovery deadline.
In May, Kubik will leave CMU after almost four years of employment.
"My daughter is almost three, and this is a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, so every time I look at her, I can tell I've been going through this for almost four years of my life," she said. "My kids are great though. That's a blessing, because my life is so hard, but my kids are doing so great."