Professor files lawsuit against university for discrimination related to medical leave
Journalism faculty member Sara Kubik filed a federal lawsuit June 5 in U.S. District Court against Central Michigan University and several staff members for sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.
Besides the Board of Trustees and Provost Michael Gealt, those named in the lawsuit include College of Communication and Fine Arts Interim Dean Shelly Hinck, former Journalism Department Chair Maria Marron and journalism faculty members Lori Brost and Tim Boudreau.
General counsel Manuel Rupe said the university has not yet been served. The university does not discuss pending litigation, he added.
As a non-tenured professor, Kubik submitted forms requesting time off through Family & Medical Leave Act in 2013. She requested a tenure clock extension to accommodate her pregnancy. Kubik alleges that Marron engaged in harassing actions toward her during her leave, including contacting her about work matters, telling the department's dean she was not inclined to grant Kubik's tenure, refusing to give Kubik priority in scheduling classes, giving a more preferable class schedule to a male adjunct, sharing personal information about Kubik with other faculty members and denying Kubik tenure extension.
"My family issues have been openly discussed in front of other professionals," Kubik said. "I think the perception has been very negative that I chose to be a mother."
In September 2013, the journalism department recommended not reappointing Kubik as an assistant professor. This decision was overturned by former CCFA Dean Salma Ghanem.
In October 2013, Kubik filed a complaint with the university alleging sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and familial status discrimination against Marron, Brost and professor Kent Miller. During April 2014, Kubik filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sex discrimination and retaliation.
During a September 2014 faculty meeting, the journalism department voted to deny Kubik's reappointment. Boudreau, who serves as the faculty representative for Central Michigan Life's Student Publication Board, questioned her about her EEOC charge. Brost said Kubik created a hostile work environment by filing it. At a recorded meeting, Kubik said Boudreau expressed anger that he had to attend a training session following the result of Kubik's complaint.
"He was very openly angry about that," Kubik said. "Of the faculty that were in attendance, I think some of them would agree."
Boudreau declined to comment while in the litigation process.
The four counts in the lawsuit include gender and pregnancy discrimination under Title VII. A branch of the Civil Rights act of 1964, Title VII protects individuals against employment discrimination on the bases of race and color, national origin, sex and religion. It defines discrimination during recruiting, hiring and advancement as unlawful, as well has harassment and creating a hostile work environment. It also states that employees have the right to be free from retaliation for their opposition to discrimination.
Kubik also cites sex discrimination under the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education and access to public accommodations. She also filed pregnancy discrimination under this act and retaliation under both Title VII and ELCRA.
Under Title VII and ELCRA, Kubik alleges the university and department members discriminated against her because of her gender and pregnancy, limited an employment opportunity on that basis, failing to provide a work environment free from sex or pregnancy discrimination and creating a hostile work environment because of her pregnancy.
Kubik also is suing for retaliation in violation of both acts, as she alleges the defendants took adverse action against her, including refusing to interact with her, refusing to investigate a complaint she filed with the university, offering her a tenure extension if she withdrew her internally-filed complaint, creating a hostile work environment and denial of appointment and termination.
Kubik said she is under financial distress and has lost of earnings and benefits. She is seeking declaration of unlawful action, compensatory damages, attorney fees, reinstatement to her employment and position and other relief as the court deems necessary.
Brost and Marron were contacted for comment for this story.
Stay with Central Michigan Life as this story develops.