Wednesday, July 21, 1999

Union Institute case in mediation

3 women claim race discrimination

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Three black women who say they were fired from the Union Institute because of their race and sex are in discussions with the educational institution to resolve the matter before it goes to trial.

        The defendants' decision to have the cases mediated comes after U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith last week denied a joint motion by the three women to consolidate their suits.

        The three separate suits will stand as the women and school officials try to reach an agreement before a Sept. 1 deadline. No trial date has been set. The three federal civil rights suits, which say the women were fired from their positions between 1996 and 1997, seek unspecified damages and reinstatement or extra money to sup port them while they seek similar jobs.

        Suing are Sherry T. Scott, alumni director; Theresa Taylor-McGee, a secretary; and Ann M. Taylor, a professor and academic adviser in undergraduate studies.

        “We would like to try to mediate it, but we're prepared to go to trial,” said Ted L. Wills, who represents the three women. He said he and fellow Cincinnati attorney Marc D. Mezibov are “very confident” they will prevail if the cases go to trial.

        The Union Institute, in Walnut Hills, is a national university offering tutorial-based undergraduate and doctoral programs. Students at the private university, founded in 1964, learn by working one-on-one with professors and adjunct professors, and communicate, mainly, by computer and telephone.

        School officials could not be reached Tuesday for comment on the suits.

        Ms. Scott, who is now with the State University of New York at Stony Brook as director of alumni relations, sued Robert T. Conley, president of the educational institution, and Peter Hollister, its vice president for institutional development. She also names the institute in her complaint.

        Ms. Scott also claimed she was a victim of retaliation, saying she was fired after filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

        Ms. Taylor-McGee, who is employed with Thomas E. Wood Insur ance Co., downtown, sued Mr. Conley and Greg Braxton-Brown, vice president for academic affairs, in addition to the institute. She said she was fired after filing a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which found there was probable cause to support her complaint of retaliation.

        Dr. Taylor, who during the past year worked at Northern Kentucky University, named Mr. Conley and the institute. She said her firing — after leave for a broken leg — was part of a “pattern and practice” of discrimination at the institute.

        Meanwhile, a separate federal suit against the Union Institute has been settled. The suit, filed by Mr. Mezibov and Mr. Wills, said their client, Husam A. Alahmad, was sexually harassed by his boss, Uvieja Leighton.

        Mr. Alahmad also claimed his academic skills were denigrated because he is a Palestinian and that he was wrongly demoted from the school's administration to faculty status with a significant loss of pay. He also named the school and Mr. Conley in the suit.


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- Union Institute case in mediation