Education

Former HR head alleges in lawsuit that Newman University fired her for whistle-blowing

Former HR head alleges in lawsuit that Newman University fired her for whistle-blowing

Newman University’s former director of human resources says in a lawsuit that she was fired in retaliation for reporting what she believed were rule and policy violations, mismanagement, abuse of authority and unethical behavior by officials.
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Newman University’s former director of human resources says in a lawsuit that she was fired in retaliation for reporting what she believed were rule and policy violations, mismanagement, abuse of authority and unethical behavior by officials.

Newman University’s former director of human resources says in a new federal lawsuit that the school fired her in retaliation for reporting what she believed were rule and policy violations, mismanagement, abuse of authority and unethical behavior by university officials.

The private Catholic college in Wichita fired Mandy Greenfield on Jan. 31, about four months after she started overseeing an internal Title IX investigation into harassment and gender discrimination claims lodged against the vice president for student affairs and director of athletics, current and former men’s basketball coaches, and a student.

Her investigation into that complaint and others, she says in the lawsuit, was met with pushback and interference by university officials — including the president, at least three vice presidents and the school’s chief information officer — and was compromised when some shared confidential information.

Newman University, in an emailed statement to The Eagle, said it’s aware of Greenfield’s allegations and denies them.

Greenfield filed a whistle-blower complaint with Newman Board of Trustees Chair Teresa Hall Bartels on Dec. 8, 2017, a week after she was abruptly suspended with pay from her duties and escorted off campus.

The university fired her by email the following month, citing her conduct overseeing the internal investigations into the discrimination complaints, according to court documents.

Questionable conduct by school officials includes the handling of an alleged threat made by Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Athletics Victor Trilli to retaliate against then-head volleyball coach Destiny Clark, the lawsuit says.

Clark made the harassment and gender discrimination complaint that Greenfield was investigating. She is no longer with Newman.

“I personally complained about and was critical of the illegal harassment and retaliatory conduct of the Vice President of Student Affairs/Athletic Director (Trilli). In response, I was removed from a decision-making role, suspended and then terminated,” Greenfield wrote in an Aug. 22 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed Monday with the lawsuit in federal court in Kansas City.

She goes on to say in the EEOC complaint that she “had extreme difficulty” finding another job and that she believes the retaliation against her is continuing.

Greenfield is suing Newman and two unspecified university officials for alleged violations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects against gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funding, and under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employer discrimination, defamation and invasion of privacy. She is asking that a Kansas City jury hear the case.

A statement sent by Director of University Relations Clark Schafer said, “Newman is dedicated to treating all complaints and/or allegations of mistreatment seriously as part of our efforts to uphold the university’s mission statement and the Newman Code. Further, the university has strong anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies in place, which leadership believes in and enforces.

“Based on the results of a thorough investigation, Newman denies the allegations by Ms. Greenfield and intends to defend this matter.”

Greenfield is being represented by Kansas City attorneys Sarah Brown and Dan Curry. Brown would not comment on the case beyond the allegations laid out in the lawsuit.

Newman hired Greenfield to be its director of human resources in October 2014.

The school, at 3100 McCormick, has about 1,800 graduate and undergraduate students.

Ralph Stanton and 15 other nuclear workers were exposed to airborne plutonium oxide in an accident at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls in 2011. He is one of more than 186,000 nuclear workers exposed to radiation on the job since 2001.

Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.

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