Five students sue GW for workplace sexual harassment

Originally published by Evan Bennett on 5.18.18 at
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Five female GW students are suing the university for allegedly covering up sexual harassment in a student workplace, according to a Washington Post article that was published Friday.

The suit argues that GW was guilty on two counts of violating Title IX, two counts of violating the DC Human Rights Act, and one count of negligent training, supervision, and retention. The plaintiffs of the suit are suing GW and their direct supervisor at the Institute for International Economic Policy.

The suit accused a student employee they worked with frequently of various actions, including sexually assaulting three female coworkers, sexually harassing and stalking eight employees, and announcing a public sexual rating system of the female employees that they assaulted. It goes on to state that, “The IIEP workplace became a nightmare, prison-like environment for the female employees."

The lawsuit also alleges that three IIEP student employees were raped, information that it says went ignored by GW. The lawsuit provides specific details of incidents that will be omitted for privacy reasons.

The lawsuit illustrates the many steps the five employees took in attempting to report the incidents to their supervisor, and to GW and the Title IX office.

When the plaintiffs brought up the alleged harassment to their supervisor, they were reportedly told, “sometimes you need to work with people that you don’t necessarily get along with." The supervisor is also accused of inappropriately touching employees and making comments to them, as well as asking them personal information about their plans for having children and getting married. The lawsuit states that several meetings occurred between the various plaintiffs and their supervisor in an attempt to deal with the workplace harassment, but no actions were taken.

The university itself is also on the hook in the lawsuit, allegedly having done nothing to prevent or investigate the students’ claims. One plaintiff filed four formal complaints with their supervisor, to no avail, while another only received an email response from a Title IX investigator, who took no further action, according to the suit. The suit also alleges that GW treated the complaints as “student-on-student harassment” rather than “staff-on-staff harassment," despite the plaintiffs' positions as paid IIEP staff members.

In a meeting with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the suit alleges that one of the staff members reportedly told the student, “we have no policies in place regarding student problems in the workplace....there is absolutely no policy for harassment of students in the workplace.” It also alleges that the IIEP director wanted to have the accused employee terminated, but was told by the Office of General Counsel that it was a Title IX matter.

The suit alleges GW violated Title IX in two separate areas by withholding guaranteed protections and “deliberate indifference to sexual harassment."

The lawsuit argued the plaintiffs should be awarded compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys fees, among other requests. This is not the first time GW has faced legal trouble in this area, with the Washington Post having reported on a similar story just over a month ago.

“In reality, however, GW has placed the purported “rights” of the sexual predator over the safety, security, and rights of his victims," the lawsuit reads.

CampusEvan Bennett