Susan Burhans, a former security education coordinator for the Yale Police Department, filed a lawsuit against the University Friday afternoon on the grounds that her efforts to promote compliance with Title IX and related laws led to her unfair dismissal.
In her former position, Burhans allegedly uncovered several University policies that promoted a hostile sexual climate on campus and warranted overhauls, according to today’s complaint. Though Burhans repeatedly approached Yale officials in the past decade with concerns regarding these policies, the suit claims that administrators ignored her suggestions.
“As we developed evidence in the case, it became clear that there was more here than a routine case of employee discrimination based on gender,” John Williams, Burhans’ New Haven-based attorney, told the News. “After consulting with Title IX experts… we realized that this is a very strong case against Yale’s well-documented pattern of violating Title IX.”
The complaint states that when Burhans notified Associate Vice President Martha Highsmith, then deputy secretary of the University, that Yale was underreporting cases of sexual misconduct, administrators stripped Burhans of her job responsibilities, which initially included the development of campus programs to ensure a safe environment in compliance with Title IX and related laws. Burhans’ position was eventually terminated in March 2010. She was later rehired as a project manager with no responsibilities related to Title IX, though that position has also been terminated, effective this November.
Burhans is suing the University for at least $10 million, according to the complaint.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights closed a Title IX investigation into Yale’s sexual climate last June, following a 15-month look into the University’s sexual misconduct reporting mechanisms and prevention and education resources. While the OCR did not find Yale in noncompliance with Title IX, its report said that the University has severely underreported cases of sexual assault and harassment.
Burhans could not be reached for comment this afternoon.