Most people probably assume today’s colleges and universities would be unlikely to be home issues such as sexual harassment, whistleblower claims and other high-profile incidents involving employment law. After all, colleges typically enjoy a reputation for being progressive and in line with the law. Michigan’s universities educate many thousands of diverse students; as a result, it is often surprising when such institutions are accused of discrimination.
Still, instances and claims of illegal workplace discrimination still occur, even at Michigan’s institutions of higher education. Recently, a professor at one Michigan public university accused a different state university of gender discrimination. The professor, who teaches economics, works at the University of Michigan-Flint, and has filed a civil rights complaint against Michigan State University over the issue of gender discrimination involving a females-only study lounge.
The lounge in question has been written about on the UM-Flint professor’s blog; he had complained that the university should not have offered such a space without offering equal space to the gender it had reportedly excluded. The lounge, though, will not long be for women only. According to a spokesperson for Michigan State, the student union lounge will welcome both men and women when it reopens in the fall. However, the spokesperson noted that the future inclusion of men was not in response to the professor’s complaint; rather, it was in response to the need for compliance with federal discrimination laws and ensuring access for all of MSU’s students.
A Communications Director for the Michigan Department of Human Rights noted that they are only in the beginning stages of reviewing the complaint. Still, complaints like these must be taken very seriously. Both private and public colleges and universities must comply with federal laws as well as other employment laws. An experienced employment law firm can be an immediate resource when an employee of such an institution suspects illegal discrimination or harassment.
Source: mlive.com, “UM-Flint Professor accuses MSU of gender discrimination over study lounge,” Michael Kransz, July 18, 2016