Lecturer may file wrongful termination suit

Natasa Mateljevic GRD ’07, a physics lecturer and former graduate student who filed a lawsuit against the University for failing to provide adequate security and sexual misconduct resources, is considering suing Yale for wrongful termination as well.

While Mateljevic was working toward her doctorate in chemistry at the Graduate School between 2002 and 2004, she was repeatedly raped and assaulted by her former boyfriend Rafael Crespo Jr., who was convicted in 2006 of assault in the third degree and two counts of sexual assault in the first degree. Mateljevic filed a complaint in March claiming that the University did not provide her with adequate security services and did not effectively educate her on possible crime reporting mechanisms. Mateljevic previously filed an anonymous civil suit of negligence against the University in 2006, which was dismissed in March 2012 because the “plaintiff did not follow the procedure,” according to the motion of dismissal. Now, Mateljevic’s lawyer said he and Mateljevic are currently deciding whether to file a wrongful-termination suit against the University alleging that Yale dismissed Mateljevic from her employment or reduced her salary or range of responsibilities due to her filing the original 2006 lawsuit.

University spokesman Tom Conroy said her claims are baseless, adding that Mateljevic remains a lecturer in the Physics Department.

Michael Luzzi ’85, Mateljevic’s attorney, declined to state explicitly whether the University has officially terminated Mateljevic, but said she has received income from the University this spring. Mateljevic is still listed in the Yale directory as a physics lecturer, though she does not teach any classes and has been removed from the Physics Department website.

“Our position is that Yale dealt extremely unfairly and unequally with respect to my client’s employment,” Luzzi said.

Mateljevic has been an instructor in the Physics Department since June 2008 and independently taught her first full course, “University Physics” or Physics 180, in fall 2012.

Mateljevic’s two former teaching assistants and four former students said students were frustrated with her lack of teaching experience, heavy reliance on PowerPoints and ineffective communication.

On Oct. 1, Mateljevic arrived 20 minutes late for the course’s first midterm and had not prepared enough exam copies for all students, said former student Vanessa Yuan ’15, who dropped the course shortly after and contacted the DUS. Former teaching assistant Xin Li GRD ’17 said students performed poorly, averaging in the 60-percent range.

Following the first midterm, students and TAs said Physics Department Chair Meg Urry sat in on the course regularly, as often as once a week, and sometimes took part in teaching. The TAs also began attending the class regularly, Johnathan Yao ’15 said, and the environment felt “tense.”

Mateljevic’s course was an experimental offering that combined aspects of lectures and seminars for the first time, and both students and teaching assistants said the new course structure may have contributed to the negative reviews Mateljevic received.

Luzzi said a number of current and former Yale employees have offered to testify on the plaintiff’s behalf because they believe she is right in her case, but declined to disclose employees’ names.

In both her original 2006 suit and her recent March lawsuit, Mateljevic alleged she notified University members, such as peers and faculty, that Crespo posed a danger to her in stalking, harassing and assaulting her, but that the University did not respond in an appropriate, timely manner. Luzzi said Mateljevic decided to file a suit in March without using a pseudonym because she was finally ready to come forward publicly.

Mateljevic’s most recent negligent security lawsuit was filed on March 14.

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