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Former dean Suzette Grillot's lawsuit alleges wage discrimination, possible First Amendment violation

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Suzette Grillot (copy) (copy)

OU professor Suzette Grillot speaks at the Rally to Stop Racism on Jan. 22.

In a lawsuit filed by former College of International Studies Dean Suzette Grillot, she alleges she was the subject of wage discrimination, a First Amendment violation and damage to her business relations.

The Daily has obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed on March 28 by Grillot.

Grillot filed an employment charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against OU, President James Gallogly and Provost Kyle Harper under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 for “gender discrimination and retaliation for protected activity,” according to the lawsuit.

Grillot could receive more than $75,000 in damages from OU, Gallogly and Harper, according to the lawsuit.

Grillot held a press conference the morning of March 29 to discuss the suit, and university spokesperson Lauren Brookey said the university had not been served with a copy of the complaint so it has "not had an opportunity to evaluate the allegations." 

"Once we receive the complaint, OU will file court documents to respond that we are confident ... the university acted appropriately and fulfilled its responsibility to treat all its employees fairly and equitably," Brookey said in an email.

Here are the highlights of the lawsuit:

Alleged wage discrimination

Grillot is pursuing action against OU because she alleges the university did not pay her equal to her male counterparts, which would violate the Equal Pay Act.

Over the past three years leading up to January 2019, the lawsuit alleges that she has experienced gender-based wage discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, “peer, male deans at OU were paid more than (Grillot) for performing equal work, work of substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions.”

The lawsuit alleges that Grillot notified Harper about the pay inequality, and Harper increased her salary in June 2015. However, the lawsuit states that “Harper failed to adequately correct the illegal condition of inequity by administering an increase in pay that did not adequately resolve the inequities.”

In a meeting on Nov. 26, 2018, Grillot and other OU employees expressed concern about the gender-based pay inequality at OU to Harper, Gallogly and the OU Human Resources Executive Staff, according to the lawsuit.

While Gallogly acknowledged the issue of pay inequity, Harper dismissed the issue as “frivolous publications” by The Daily, according to the lawsuit.

OU could be entitled to pay for Grillot’s lost wages, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, pre-judgment interest and any other relief the court finds appropriate, the lawsuit stated.

Possible First Amendment violation

Grillot is also taking action against Harper and Gallogly for allegedly violating her First Amendment rights by ending her positions as dean and vice provost, which she alleges was in retaliation for speaking out against the Gallogly administration multiple times, according to the lawsuit.

Between December 2017 and now, Grillot has made public comments on matters of public concern due to the actions of Harper and Gallogly, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that the “expressed and unexpressed” decision for Harper and Gallogly to terminate Grillot’s position of dean and vice provost was unassociated with the positions themselves. The two men “wrongfully demoted (Grillot) in retaliation for her engagement in protected speech on matters of public concern,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Harper and Gallogly held a meeting with Grillot on July 19, 2018, to discuss their requests for information about the study abroad programs, the study centers and other requests.

However, the lawsuit states that Gallogly “used a raised voice to verbally reprimand her for making public information public” that shouldn’t be. Gallogly allegedly told Grillot that she didn’t understand how budgeting worked, so she had no reason to make the information public.

“You wouldn’t understand the budget even if I showed it to you,” Gallogly said, according to the lawsuit. “You are just an academic. You just study the world. I have worked around the world. My passport is twice as thick as yours.”

In months following the July 19 meeting, the lawsuit states that Grillot was told by colleagues and members of the public that Gallogly was directly and indirectly referring to Grillot as “emotional, unprofessional, over-reactive and not to be trusted.”

The lawsuit alleges that on Aug. 8, 2018, Harper was critical of Grillot’s use of social media to state her opinions and said she was “unprofessional and untrustworthy.”

According to the lawsuit, because Gallogly and Harper’s actions were “willful and in bad faith,” they could be entitled to pay for Grillot’s lost wages, emotional pain and suffering, attorneys’ fees and costs, and pre-judgment interest.

“Tortious interference of business relations”

The lawsuit’s final complaint alleges “tortious interference of business relations,” or intentional damages to someone’s business relations. The lawsuit states that Gallogly and Harper interfered with Grillot’s business opportunities and contracts by allegedly retaliating against her and punishing her for her gender and freedom of speech.

Grillot could be entitled to recover “actual, compensatory and punitive damages” from Gallogly and Harper, according to the lawsuit.

This post was updated at 12:34 p.m. to reflect the response of a university spokesperson.

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