Harassment Complaint Filed In Federal Court Against University of Rochester

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Nine professors and students who filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the University of Rochester three months ago, on Friday filed a lawsuit against the university, President Joel Seligman and Provost Robert Clark.

(the court papers are at the end of this story)

The 192-page complaint echoes many of the allegations contained in the EEOC complaint, many of which centered around Professor Florian Jaeger, in the university’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department. Jaeger has denied the charges, and was placed on administrative leave.

The lawsuit alleges inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment, and retaliation for bringing the allegations to light.

Earlier this week, TIME Magazine included two of the  plaintiffs, Celeste Kidd and Jessica Cantlon in their ‘Person of the Year’ issue. They were featured as two of the ‘Silence Breakers’ who have changed the national conversation about sexual harassment.

On Friday, the plaintiffs issued this statement:

Our sole aim in filing our EEOC complaint was to engage the University of Rochester in a process that would ensure protections for future generations of students from powerful faculty who engage in unlawful activities. We made our EEOC complaint public only after exhausting all private, internal appeals (on 29 separate occasions) over an 18-month period to the deans, the department chair, Provost Clark and President Seligman. Each of our urgent requests to the University administration was rebuffed.

We regret we are being forced to file this suit. However, because UR has refused to resolve our complaint, or even speak to us about it, we now must proceed to court or lose our rights forever to seek the law’s protections. We have seen repeatedly that UR has deflected and concealed problems of sexual harassment rather than tackling them. We do not want other victims to keep suffering in silence. In the absence of any effective action by the University, we had to go public in September, and we have to file suit today.

Our priority is to get back to research and teaching, which are our primary missions. But, as recent publicity about the prevalence of sexual harassment has shown, this is an important issue that needs serious attention. Our students need protection and defense, so this too must be our responsibility.”

The University of Rochester issued this response to the lawsuit:

The filing of this lawsuit was not unexpected. We will not comment on any matter that we have not had a chance to review, and we currently plan to withhold comment until the completion of the independent investigation commissioned by a special committee of the University of Rochester’s Board of Trustees. That investigation continues; the most recent update from the special committee is Here

Here is a copy of the lawsuit filed Friday:

UR Lawsuit by EEOC Complainants

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