- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) - Two University of Wisconsin-La Crosse employees have filed complaints against the school alleging discrimination and retaliation.

A complaint recently filed by Sandra Sieber, assistant director of the school’s Office of International Education, with the state Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division alleges the university retaliated with “extraordinary scrutiny and criticism” when she raised concerns over the February hiring of the department’s new associate director. She claims the school didn’t advertise the position or consider her, and instead chose the wife of Fred Pierce, associate vice chancellor of Enrollment Management, who oversees the international education department.

University attorneys deny Sieber’s claims and say the office staff supported the hire, the La Crosse Tribune (https://bit.ly/ZXDonv ) reported.

Jay Lokken, the former director of the Office of International Education, filed a similar complaint earlier this month. He claims his opposition to the hiring also drew discrimination and retaliation from the university.

Lokken recommended Sieber and one other person for the position, according to the complaint. Pierce gave Lokken a copy of his wife’s resume, which did not list experience that’s necessary for the associate director position, Lokken said. On Feb. 5, Pierce announced to the department that his wife, Kim Pierce, would fill the position, the complaint said.

“There were no other candidates being considered,” Lokken wrote in his complaint.

Kim Pierce came in for an interview on Feb. 12 and her husband told Lokken the following day that he should offer the position to her, according to the complaint. Lokken contacted a university attorney and human resources. Since Feb. 14, Lokken said there were clear attempts made to force him from the position, including audits and an intimidating comment made by Pierce. He took leave in September and then was placed in a different position in a different department when he returned.

Kim Pierce resigned in September.

“The department is now going to be temporarily headed by the individual, my direct supervisor, who has been primarily responsible for a pattern of harassment, intimidation and threats because I opposed his wife’s hire and because I cooperated with the Equal Rights Division’s investigation of (Sieber’s) discrimination complaints,” Lokken wrote.

The state will investigate both complaints.

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Information from: La Crosse Tribune, https://www.lacrossetribune.com


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