The dismissal of Ann McGruder’s claims of sex discrimination and retaliation against MU was repealed Tuesday by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

McGruder first filed a lawsuit against the university July 19, 2019.

The lawsuit alleges discrimination and retaliation while McGruder was the associate director of administration in the Department of Surgery at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. She held the position from 2016 until January 2018.

After her relationship with the university ended, McGruder was employed by the Alfred Friendly Foundation. The not-for-profit organization is not under the purview of the university but is located on the Columbia campus. In fall 2018, McGruder was informed by Randy Smith, the chief executive officer of the foundation, that she would likely be laid off in the coming months. She agreed to sign a severance contract with the foundation in March 2019, believing it would not impact the suit against the university.

However, when Smith requested a standard severance contract for McGruder from human resources personnel, they sent him a document entitled “University of Missouri Layoff and Transition Assistance Agreement,” which Smith and McGruder then signed, believing it was an agreement solely between the foundation and McGruder. The standard-form agreement made no reference to the foundation or the fact that McGruder was its full-time employee at the time she signed the agreement.

After she filed her lawsuit for sex discrimination and retaliation, the university filed a counterclaim against McGruder contending that the severance agreement McGruder signed released it from McGruder’s claims.

McGruder argued that the judgment for her plead was improper because of a mutual mistake, which according to court documents is defined as a mistake that “exists when both parties have memorialized in writing what neither actually intended.”

She alleged that MU was not entitled to enforce the release that was part of the severance agreement.

The Circuit Court of Boone County ruled in favor of the university March 16, dismissing McGruder’s claims.

The Missouri Court of Appeals agreed that the Circuit Court of Boone County should not have resolved McGruder’s claims, reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

  • Missourian Reporter, Spring 2021 Missourian Photographer and Photo Editor Fall 2019/Spring 2020 Reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at

  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at or at 573-884-5366.

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