UW Foundation Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Unlawful Retaliaiton
A University of Wyoming Foundation employee has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the organization, alleging that she was terminated as retaliation for submitting complaints against her superiors.
In the lawsuit, Mandy Davis alleges the ‘retrenchment’, or elimination of her position as human resources manager for the UW Foundation was a ploy for unlawful retaliation against her.
Davis was hired for the newly-created position in December 2014 and in a staff position request filed in September 2014, the position was deemed ‘essential to the core mission’ of the UW Foundation and called ‘critical.’ As part of her responsibilities as HR Manager, Davis’s served as the administrator for all UW Foundation employee searches.
On July 14, 2015, Davis filed a complaint against UW Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer William Blalock and Mary Ivanoff, vice president for administration and donor relations, with the UW Office of Diversity and Employment Practices for comments the two had made about an employee with a physical disability that Davis had recently hired. She expressed fear she would lose her job for reporting their comments. Ivanoff and Blalock were informed of the complaint and told it would be unlawful for them to retaliate against her.
The suit alleges Blalock met with the new hire and afterwards told Ivanoff, who was also Ms. Davis’s supervisor, that he was disappointed in the new hire. He questioned Ivanoff about the hiring process, extent of the candidate pool, whether the candidate was screened appropriately and was the most qualified candidate in the pool for the position, according to the suit.
Ivanoff allegedly told Ms. Davis not to hire another ‘retard’ and that the new hire’s appearance did not fit Blalock image for the UW Foundation and that her appearance was not ‘part of his vision.’ Ivanoff allegedly checked with UW’s Office of Human Resources and learned the new hire had never officially claimed a disability, but later stated that “if you meet her, you would make that assumption.”
Later, Blalock reportedly told a UW Foundation Vice President that he was angry with Ms. Davis for filing the complaint against him and wondered what he could do, explaining he did not think he could terminate Ms. Davis’s employment.
On Dec 1, 2015 Ms. Davis was informed that her position, along with three other employees, was being ‘entrenched’ or eliminated through the reorganization process, due to the hiring freeze implemented by UW President McGinity on Oct 9, 2015.
Subsequent to the hiring freeze, UW’s Director of Human Resources explained in a document that personnel eliminated due to reorganization must be shown to perform duties no longer critical to the operation of the department, and that retrenchment is not for the purpose of eliminating emloyees without due process. Blalock claimed that Ms.Davis position was not critical to the foundation’s primary responsibilities.
The UW Foundation raised $63 million in fiscal year 2016, more than it had ever raised in a single year of fundraising in its 50 year history.
The funds represented a large step in the Foundation’s plan to reach $100 million in fundraising that it had claimed justified the critical need for Ms. Davis’s in-house Human Resources Manager position in just one year before the UW Foundation eliminated her position.
On March 28, 2016, the University of Wyoming rehired Ms. Davis from entrenchment.
Laramie Live reached out to the UW Foudation for comment and have not received a reply as of yet, we will update the story when a reply is given.