September 27, 2011

Court Will Hear Case Against University of Washington Alleging Retaliation Against Ombuds' Visitor

The federal trial court in Seattle has rejected a motion by UW to dismiss an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by an assistant professor. Isabelle Bichindaritz, the plaintiff, has claimed that the university discriminated against her on the basis of sex and retaliated against her for a complaint she filed with the University Ombudsman. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to overcome the university's motion to dismiss the case.

In her lawsuit, Bichindaritz alleged that she was wrongfully denied tenure during the 2005-06 academic year because of discrimination by her department chair. She also alleged that her effort to resolve the conflict through a mediation with the University Ombuds triggered retaliation by the chair. The court's decision was based on a finding that Bichindaritz had produced evidence which, when viewed in a very favorable light, gives rise to an inference of retaliatory motive and causation. Since this decision is from a trial court, it creates little legal precedent. (Bichindaritz v. Univ. of Wash., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106060, 11-12 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 19, 2011).)

It is IOA's position that organizations should prevent retaliation based on the use of Ombuds services:
The organization should assure that all specified members of the organization have the right to consult with the Ombudsman, and retaliation for exercising that right will not be tolerated. (IOA Best Practices, ver. 3, Standard 2.2, ¶ 2.)

1 comment:

  1. It's worth pointing out that the ombudsman at the time of the relevant events is not the current ombudsman at UW.