There are a lot of ways how an employee can be discriminated against at work. But can you be discriminated against by your ex’s boyfriend? Well, if he is your boss, then probably “yes.” And it’s not just a hypothetical question. That’s what allegedly happened in Stanford Business School.
In 2014 former professor of Stanford University Graduate School of Business Mr. Phills filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against dean of the School Mr. Saloner and Stanford University (as co-defendants). According to Mr. Phills, he was the subject of harassment and wrongful termination by the dean, because the dean had an affair with Mr. Phills’s ex-wife. According to Mr. Phills, he was harassed and discriminated by Mr. Saloner and Stanford University on the basis of Mr. Phills’s race, gender and marital status.
In his email to faculty, staff and students dean Saloner denied any wrongdoing. He alleged that Mr. Phills was fired because he did not return to work in a timely manner after taking several leaves of absence. However, according to some faculty and other employees of the business school, this situation reflects a much deeper problem related to a difficult and even hostile workplace environment in one of the top business schools in the nation (#1 according to U.S. News & World Report).
Mr. Phills also made his point about a hostile environment in the business school and that he was dismissed by dean Saloner “in retaliation.” Last year 46 current and former business school employees signed a letter complaining about dean Saloner and asking the university’s leadership to not appoint him for the next term.
He was reappointed then. However, on September 14, 2015 Stanford Business School published on its website an announcement that Garth Saloner would step down as dean of the business school at the end of the current academic year, i.e. in summer of 2016. Apparently, this scandal has an impact on the school’s reputation.
If these allegations against Mr. Saloner and the business school working environment turn out to be true, there may be more lawsuits and even a class action suit against the dean and the university. The only way Mr. Phills’s employer can avoid responsibility is to prove that a genuine reason for firing him was not discrimination or retaliation, i.e. that Mr. Phills would have been fired anyway, for instance, for poor performance or discipline abuses.