A Win for Women at Newman

University settles with woman and EEOC amid reports ex-president preferred male candidates for some positions.
March 1, 2006

Newman University has agreed to pay a former dean $182,000 for sex bias and to adopt a series of new policies to prevent illegal discrimination.

The agreement, announced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Tuesday, is the second settlement in a year between the Roman Catholic university in Wichita and current or former female administrators charging gender bias when they were denied promotions. The charges relate to allegations that Aidan O. Dunleavy, who in December announced he would be leaving the presidency, favored male candidates for some positions.

In both cases that were settled -- after EEOC investigations backed the women, something that does not happen frequently in academic labor disputes -- accusations were made that Dunleavy specifically told others that he wanted men for the jobs, and in one case he was reported to have expressed a preference for a Catholic man in his 40s. The claims of the women who sued have also been backed by other former administrators and current faculty members.

Dunleavy, through a Newman spokeswoman, has repeatedly declined to comment and the university has said that it has done nothing wrong. A statement issued by Newman said that the university was not acknowledging any wrongdoing, but had decided that it was best to settle the case and to move on. The statement pledged that the university was committed to a "discrimination free workplace."

Under the agreement announced Tuesday, Newman will:

  • Pay Marla Sexson $182,000 to settle her claims, backed by the EEOC, that she was passed over for a promotion through gender bias, and that she was retaliated against -- through changes in her job duties -- when she complained about her treatment.
  • Provide anti-discrimination training to all administrators.
  • File special reports with the EEOC for three years.
  • Maintain a position of vice president for human resources. (Newman created the position in the fall.)

In a statement, an EEOC lawyer, Robert G. Johnson, said that the case should send an important message. "Unlawful discrimination can happen in any workplace, regardless of managers' education or sophistication," Johnson said. "Employers can help protect themselves by not allowing any one individual to have unchecked control over virtually all employment decisions."


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