A former MU School of Medicine administrator described her workplace environment as “toxic,” “hostile” and “retaliatory,” as well as a supervisor’s attempts to exclude and intimidate her, in a lawsuit filed against the UM Board of Curators on June 26.

Ann McGruder, the former associate director of administration in the med school’s Department of Surgery is claiming sex discrimination and retaliation resulting from her complaints of that discrimination in the lawsuit.

McGruder alleges she was not paid adequately despite her performance of duties beyond her station, as requested by her supervisor, Kevin Staveley-O’Carroll, the department chairman. These included duties that fell under the jurisdiction of the director of administration, which she alleges were not being performed. McGruder carried out those duties from August 2016 until late June 2017, her petition says.

Those duties resulted in a larger workload for McGruder. She “worked often on nights and weekends, and had many 60-70 hour work weeks,” according to the lawsuit.

Mark Waterman, whose title was director of administration at the time, was hired before McGruder, in May 2016, but was not doing the job while he was on the payroll, the lawsuit says. Waterman officially assumed the director’s role in the summer of 2017 and earned far more than McGruder, despite her performing some of his duties.

While Waterman earned a base pay of $188,000, McGruder earned $115,000, according to the lawsuit.

After Staveley-O’Carroll rejected her request for a raise, McGruder alleges, he began excluding her from meetings with other administrators and higher-ups. Those meetings often “involved (her) areas of responsibility.”

According to the lawsuit, those meetings were held within earshot of McGruder to ensure she knew she was being excluded. The lawsuit claims that was “deliberate and malicious retaliation” because of her having “challenged the sex discrimination that paid Mr. Waterman more than McGruder.”

In July 2017, McGruder told Marla Lampp, assistant to the dean of the medical school, in person and in a written memo, about her negative experiences under Staveley-O’Carroll. The lawsuit says no action was taken.

McGruder received an email in August 2017 telling her that the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX will “reach out to you to conduct a preliminary investigation,” but no Title IX action was ever taken, according to the lawsuit.

A month later, on Sept. 14, 2017, Staveley-O’Carroll emailed McGruder, letting her know that he was made aware of her concerns. McGruder was “surprised, disappointed and fearful” that the dean’s office had notified her supervisor of her complaints, and viewed it as “an attempt to intimidate her.”

McGruder also claims Staveley-O’Carroll often targeted female staff and faculty with “verbal aggression,” with a goal of removing and replacing them with his male friends. She says Staveley-O’Carroll asked her to “figure out a cause” to remove or reassign female employees.

This targeting of female employees included requests from the office of then-Dean Patrice Delafontaine, which once requested McGruder to remove a female employee on the basis of “structural change and fiscal pressure,” according to the lawsuit.

When McGruder requested a transfer from the department in August 2017, Delafontaine’s office rejected the request with no explanation. Delafontaine stepped down as dean in March to take a position at Tulane University.

McGruder was terminated from her position Jan. 5, 2018, under the same basis as the employees they asked her to remove: “department organization.”

McGruder is asking that the court reinstate her to the position of associate director of administration, or award commensurate salary and benefits for the remainder of her time until retirement. She also is seeking damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

  • Galen Bacharier is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. He has previously reported on state government and higher education. Reach him at galenbacharier@gmail.com or on Twitter @galenbacharier.

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