University of Utah officials go to trial Monday on accusations that they refused promote a U. employee because she filed sexual harassment complaints against her female boss.
Beverly T. Purrington, former acting director of the Women's Resource Center, says university officials passed her over for the job of permanent WRC director because she had filed several sexual harassment complaints against her one-time boss, Shauna Adix, former director of the center.U. officials sought to avoid the trial by asking U.S. District Judge David Winder to review Purrington's case and rule in the U.'s favor.
However, Winder ruled this week that Purrington had enough evidence suggesting retaliation by U. officials to warrant a federal trial.
He noted that Purrington was appointed acting director of the WRC in 1988, when Adix left the post. Adix briefly worked in the U.'s dance program and has since retired.
After Adix left, the U. appointed a search committee to conduct a national search for a permanent Women's Resource Center director.
Ramona Adams - a U. official Purrington says had a lengthy sexual relationship with Adix - selected one of her employees as chairman of the search committee, Winder noted in his ruling.
Adams is the associate dean of student affairs. She chose the search chairman despite U. Provost James L. Clayton's assurance to Purrington that neither Adix or Adams would be involved in the search for a new director, Winder said.
Purrington wanted Adams excluded from the search process because she believed Adams resented her for filing sexual harassment complaints against Adix.
The chairman Adams selected was aware of Purrington's sexual harassment complaints against Adix and later said to others that such complaints cast a "cloud" over Purrington's candidacy, Winder said in the ruling.
Winder noted that Purrington was one of three finalists in the search, but the only finalist whose references were not contacted by the committee. Instead, the committee solicited Adix's opinion of Purrington, which was mostly negative, Winder said.
Winder concluded Purrington had enough evidence to suggest "retaliation against plaintiff motivated Adix's decision to give plaintiff a poor job reference and the university defendants' decision to select Kathryn Brooks instead of plaintiff as WRC director."
Purrington's suit originally included claims of sexual harassment against the U. However, Winder dismissed those claims this week, ruling that the statute of limitations for sexual harassment ran out before Purrington filed her suit.
The Utah Society of Professional Journalists became involved in the case this spring when U. officials sought to seal the depositions of Adams and Adix, saying the depositions embarrassed the school.
Adams' deposition includes letters she sent to Adix discussing her feelings for Adix and plans the two women had to live together. Adix's deposition includes a transcript of taped comments Adix made about her relationship with Adams. On the tape, Adix ponders whether her relationship with Adams qualifies as a marriage.
The journalists society contested the U.'s motion. Winder ruled that the depositions should be published because they formed the basis of several legal motions filed by the U. and Purrington.
Winder's ruling also detailed Purrington's claims of harassment by Adix. Purrington also accused Adix of exposing her underclothing in staff meetings and making physical overtures to other staff and students at the U., the ruling said.
In addition to dismissing Purrington's sexual harassment complaint, Winder dismissed four incidents in her retaliation complaint because the statute of limitations prohibited using those earlier incidents in her case.
Purrington sued the University of Utah, U. President Chase N. Peterson, James L. Clayton, Kaye M. Coleman, Ramona Adams and Shauna Adix.