Two lawsuits allege dismissed FMU employees who reported sexual misconduct

Sues former employee of Florida Memorial University (FMU) Historically Black University, whose campus is in the northwest Miami-Dade municipality of Miami Gardens, alleging that she was retaliated and eventually fired for attempting to blow the whistle for alleged sexual misconduct in the athletics department.

Wendy Ellis, who was director of community engagement and partnership development from October 2019 to October 2020, filed a complaint in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on November 11 — nearly a year after saying FMU President Jaffus Hardrick wrongly fired her after she raised concerns about the allegations made against her. Ernest T JonesThe university’s athletic director at the time. According to the complaint, Ellis Hardrick reported in January 2020 that three women in the athletics department disclosed to her that Jones made unwanted sexual advances toward them, that Jones was engaging in a sexual relationship with a student basketball player, and that one of the student cheerleaders. She claimed that Jones was the father of her child.

Ellis isn’t the only one raising the alarm about Jones’ alleged sexual misconduct. according to Miami Times, two petitions circulated on campus He called for Jones to be impeached, which at least one person referred to as a “sexual predator.”

In fact, Ellis’ lawsuit isn’t the only case against FMU this year alleging retaliation by the university against employees who filed charges against Jones: In late September, Stacey Anderson filed a complaint in circuit court on behalf of the late daughter Stephanie Anderson, who was an aide Jones is a former administrator. Stephanie Anderson was fired on April 6, 2021, after Hardrick and the school’s human resources department were reported about alleged misconduct by her boss.

In a statement emailed to the new eraShari Gilbert, FMU’s director of communications and marketing, said the university rejects the charges and “intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit” but declined to comment on the pending litigation according to school policy.

Neither Hardrick nor Jones responded the new eraRequests for comment are by phone and email Thursday and Friday.

Ellis declined to comment on the lawsuit. Her attorney, Michelle Levy, said in an email to the new era The complaint’s allegations speak for themselves.

The litigation comes amid a turbulent time for South Florida’s only historically black university (HBCU), the At risk of losing accreditation After it was placed on probation for a year in July due to a growing list of financial issues cited by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on Colleges (SACSCOC). To help stabilize itself and cut costs amid falling enrollment numbers, Hardrick announced on Monday that the university will do so Cut and redesign over a dozen of its undergraduate programs.

According to Ellis’ complaint, she first heard about the allegations of sexual misconduct against Jones in December 2019, when assistant athletic director Joseph Strada reported to her complaints filed by three women in the department — including a coach — accusing Jones of “sexual harassment towards them.”

Ellis later met with the three women “to discuss their concerns,” and he persuaded the coach to report to Hardrick of Jones’ behavior “even though the coach expressed deep fear after Mr. Jones told him not to speak to anyone outside his department,” the complaint states.

The complaint further states, “Because Dr. Ellis has demonstrated support for victims of harassment, she has been approached by other victims to discuss their own experiences of experiencing sexual harassment and other sexually inappropriate behavior.”

In January 2020, Strada Ellis reported that Jones and another senior administrator “were in a sexual relationship with the same student basketball player.” The complaint also notes that Ellis heard that “a cheerleading student who had recently given birth to a child claimed that [Mr.] Jones was the father.”

According to the complaint, Hardrick contacted Ellis about the accusations, stating that “Jones’ alleged conduct was without doubt a violation of Section IX and that she could not allow it to continue.” Ellis stressed the need to hire an independent investigator “because the human resources director was a close friend of [Mr.] Jones. (When Ellis reported the charges to HR, the complaint alleged, the manager “expressed concern only about who would coach football if [the university] Mr. Jones finished. “)

Hardrick allegedly told Ellis that he would hire an independent investigator to look into the matter and advised her not to get involved.

But according to the complaint, that didn’t happen. Instead, Ellis claims that Hardrick retaliated against her.

From January to June of 2020, “Dr. Hardrick began stripping Dr. Ellis of various job duties and responsibilities…removed [her] From the Executive Board all direct contact with . has ceased [her], states the complaint. Leave Hardik [Ellis] of meetings related to on-campus partnerships that were part of her job duties to oversee.”

In October 2020, Jones Resigned as sports director. Hardrick released a statement at the time explaining that Jones had moved “to pursue other career opportunities.”

The complaint states that on October 23, 2020, Hardrick asked Ellis to resign. She then submitted a written complaint to FMU’s in-house attorney about “retaliation for her objection to Title IX violations and encouragement of FMU to implement important reforms.”

Hardrick Ellis was fired after two days “without explanation”.

Ellis alleges that Hardrick fired her “in retaliation for her objection and refusal to participate in the illegal activities perpetrated by” the university. She is seeking more than $30,000 in damages and remedying violations under the law Florida Private Whistleblower Law.

On September 23, 2021, Stacey Anderson filed a complaint on behalf of her daughter. (Stephanie Anderson accidentally drowned April 23, 2021 in Key Largo, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.)

According to Anderson’s lawsuit, her daughter filed a federal discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Stacy Anderson received a so-called right to sue letter in late June, two months after her daughter’s death and is now seeking more than $30,000 in damages.

Anderson’s complaint details how Jones sexually molested her daughter on multiple occasions, stating that he “inappropriately touched her” at a work event and made “indecent, abusive and sexual comments and suggestions.”

After Jones’ predecessor, Stephanie Anderson, was dismissed, the complaint stated, “her position and title have been reassigned to a lower pay rate and benefits reduced.”

“The numerous complaints of the deceased Stephanie Anderson regarding harassment, retaliation, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. [sic] Not properly investigated or handled by Defendant FMU, “Remember Complaint”, because this institution has a clear practice and custom of retaliation against females who deny and then report sexual harassment of males in positions of authority in Defendant FMU, and where the resource department is used humankind as a means by bad actors to denigrate, denigrate and abuse women who complain of misconduct and disparate treatment.”

Anderson’s suit alleges that FMU’s retaliatory actions caused “severe emotional distress manifested by physical symptoms that included anxiety, insomnia, crying spells, and severe depression.”

Specifically, Stacey Anderson claims that the university fostered an environment that “was so severe and pervasive that it created an abusive work environment”, particularly because every complaint is made about [Stephanie’s] Differential treatment … fell on deaf ears.”

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