McAllister Olivarius in the news

University of Rochester

UR's legal team divulged their names in court filings last week — marking the third time lawyers for the university allegedly have publicly identified confidential witnesses in the case, according to the plaintiffs lawyers.

The latest breach led one witness to come forward and openly criticize the university.

"For a long time it felt safer to share my experiences anonymously than to speak out openly," said Meredith Brown, a former graduate research fellow at UR now a senior data scientist at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. "But I wasn’t considering how my desire for anonymity could potentially open me, and the other witnesses, up to intimidation and retaliation by those who wish to silence us."

“The women's names were provided in a table marked confidential in red, bold letters, and attached to a letter reiterating the need for confidentiality, according to McAllister Olivarius. The women, the firm noted, "gave often deeply personal accounts of sexual harassment and misconduct by Jaeger," with assurances their names would not be made public.”

Read the rest of the article here.

“Nearly all of the claims presented in a lawsuit have a legal basis to proceed, a judge ruled, setting the stage for a showdown in court over allegations that UR retaliated against and defamed nine former students and faculty affiliated with complaints against professor T. Florian Jaeger.

United States District Judge Lawrence Vilardo, in allowing most of the claims to proceed, established that those claims, if true, describe illegal behavior on the part of the University. 

Of the more than 15 charges levied against the University, only two — that complainant Elissa Newport was retaliated against under Title VII, and that a special committee of the Board of Trustees defamed the complainants — were dismissed in their entirety. Vilardo ruled the Board of Trustees statement wasn’t defamatory, and that Newport was not protected by Title VII because when the alleged retaliation occurred, she was not at UR. 

Vilardo’s decision neither verifies nor debunks any of the claims.

“For us, this is certainly a vindication,” Steven Piantadosi, one of the complainants, told the Campus Times. “It’s a vindication of our attorneys and what they had told us all along about the legal standards. […] In terms of our case, you know I think it’s a clearly good step for us in legal terms.”

Read the rest of the article here.

“It’s a wonderful decision. It’s a beautiful decision,” said Ann Olivarius, lead counsel for the former professors and students who had filed the suit. “It essentially embraces our arguments and says ‘You get to go forward.’” “Virtually all of the substantial legal claims, particularly those about retaliation, were left in,” said one of the plaintiffs, Steven Piantadosi. He and his wife, Celeste Kidd, who both had been on Brain And Cognitive Science faculty at UR, left UR a little more than a year ago to take new jobs at the University of California at Berkeley. Vilardo wrote that the suit contains many charges of retaliation including “criticism, violating confidentiality, viewing the plaintiffs’ emails, calling for an independent investigation, permitting Jaeger to participate in (complainants’) performance evaluations, failing to retain or hire a plaintiff, hindering the plaintiffs’ efforts to move to other institutions, and excluding the plaintiffs from meetings,” all of which the university claimed were not “adverse employment actions.”

Read the entirety of the article here:

Statement by the Plaintiffs responding to Judge Vilardo’s decision sustaining their complaint

“We are delighted to receive Judge Vilardo’s Decision and Order, which vindicates our decision to bring this case. Faced with the University’s argument that we have no valid legal claims, the court has upheld our right to proceed to trial on almost every one, including retaliation, hostile work environment, breach of contract and defamation. This victory is still bittersweet, however, because we never wanted to be here in the first place. All we have sought from the outset is for the University to behave properly in the face of our serious concerns that Professor Jaeger was harassing students and making it intolerable for many women to work in our Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department. We have always sought to engage constructively with UR, where we had worked for a combined five decades and hoped to spend the rest of our careers. Unfortunately, we have been repeatedly rebuffed. As employees, we were retaliated against, called liars and troublemakers. As plaintiffs, we were told our complaints were hearsay and unfounded. The University conducted a retaliation campaign that drove many of us from our jobs. Our attempts to settle the case have been rejected. Now, Judge Vilardo’s decision demonstrates that the University has wasted two years and millions of dollars trying to defend the indefensible.”

Read the statement in its entirety here.

An article published Saturday by The Guardian exploring "Why science breeds a culture of sexism" featured McAllister Olivarius clients bringing a claim against the University of Rochester about their experiences of sexism in the cognitive sciences department.

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