A UCLA professor can move forward with most of her lawsuit alleging she suffered a backlash for complaining that female faculty members were subjected to disparate treatment by the business school administration, a judge has ruled.
On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bruce G. Iwasaki ruled that plaintiff Jennfer Walske’s attorneys need only shore up her cause of action against the UC Regents for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but that the cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress had enough details for now.
The UC Regents argued in their court papers that both emotional distress claims belonged in the workers compensation arena and also should be dismissed on immunity grounds.
The judge also struck Walske’s claim for punitive damages and gave her attorneys 20 days to file an amended complaint.
The suit, brought June 13, also alleges gender discrimination, harassment, retaliation, hostile work environment and failure to prevent discrimination. Those causes of action were not challenged in the defense motion.
Walske’s suit alleges that she is the latest in a long line of faculty and staff who have been retaliated against for coming forward with legitimate complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
“In Dr. Walske’s case, UCLA and its agents not only retaliated against her for reporting the discrimination and harassment, but also, when she reported the retaliation, the university doubled down and retaliated against her even further,” the suit alleges.
Walske is an award-winning professor and in 2018, she was recruited by UCLA’s Anderson School of Management from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley to be an adjunct assistant professor, as well as roles as an interim faculty director for Impact@Anderson, an academic center promoting equity and sustainability through social impact work, and as a research fellow in the Price Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the suit states.
Walske moved with her family to Los Angeles to begin what she thought would be a rewarding, long-term relationship with UCLA and the Anderson School, according to the suit.
“Regrettably, however, not long after she arrived on campus, like other female faculty within UCLA Anderson, Dr. Walske experienced gender discrimination and a hostile work environment,” the suit states.
Walske reported, among other things, that her immediate supervisor, UCLA Anderson School’s then-Interim Dean, Alfred Osborne Jr., made inappropriate gender-related comments to her, treated male faculty more favorably and appeared to be engaged in an improper relationship with a female subordinate, resulting in a hostile work environment for those female faculty and staff who were not in a relationship with him, the suit states.
“But rather than addressing the actions and behaviors that were the subject of Dr. Walske’s complaints, UCLA retaliated against her,” according to the suit.