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Former male Chicago law school employee alleges gender discrimination

Former male Chicago law school employee alleges gender discrimination

Law Schools

Susan Montgomery /

A former employee at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago has won the right to continue his federal complaint of gender discrimination against the school, although claims of age discrimination and retaliation were dismissed.
John Bergholz, 59, was the law school’s executive director of development and alumni relations from 2015 to 2017. His complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in December 2017, claimed individuals attempted to orchestrate a Title IX complaint against him after he met for lunch with a donor at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The complaint says Bergholz was fired by Angela “Darby” Dickerson, the school’s dean, in April 2017. Bergholz claims Dickerson, who started the job in January 2017, has a pattern and practice of eliminating older men employed by the university, according to the complaint.
Bergholz also alleges that Anthony Niedwiecki, a former associate dean for academic affairs, falsely accused Bergholz of being “anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-black,” and he persuaded people who worked for Bergholz to make false complaints about his “insensitivity” to the school’s diversity officer.
“Niedwiecki knew or should have known that having lunch at a Trump hotel as requested by a donor did not make Bergholz anti-gay, anti-Muslim or anti-black, but in fact Bergholz was the object of harassment which Niedwiecki orchestrated,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit also alleges Title IX violations against John Marshall.
In a statement to the ABA Journal, John Marshall wrote that Bergholz’s employment was terminated for legitimate reasons not related to his age or gender. Niedwiecki, who is now the dean of the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, privately told Bergholz that he was concerned about “using tuition dollars at a Trump property on the eve of the 2016 election and the way in which students might perceive that as inappropriate,” the law school wrote in its statement.
And Niedwiecki did receive complaints about Bergholz from the women who reported to him, according to John Marshall’s statement.
“He took them seriously and handled them appropriately. We expect that all remaining claims will be dismissed at the summary judgment stage,” the statement reads.
In response to the law school’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman dismissed Dickerson as an individual defendant on Oct. 30, as well as Bergholz’s age discrimination and retaliation claims. According to the order, Bergholz did not raise age discrimination or retaliation in his charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a right-to-sue letter for gender discrimination in September 2017.
The court let stand Bergholz’s sex discrimination claims under Title VII and Title IX against the law school, as well as two intentional interference claims against Niedwiecki. The claims against Niedwiecki allege intentional interference with contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.
Bergholz’s complaint seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages. The Oct. 30 order struck his requests for treble damages under Title VII and Title IX, and for punitive damages under Title IX.

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