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Woman sues for workplace discrimination at OU

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The Seed Sower statue and chrysanthemum gardens of the Pitman Parterre welcome visitors to the University of Oklahoma. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
The Seed Sower statue and chrysanthemum gardens of the Pitman Parterre welcome visitors to the University of Oklahoma. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

A former University of Oklahoma employee is suing the school’s board of regents, claiming workplace discrimination and retaliation.

Dierdre Williamson has claimed age, pay and racial discrimination in a lawsuit that moved to Oklahoma City federal court this week. Williamson, a black woman, also stated she endured retaliation for a discrimination complaint she made while working for the OU College of Medicine.

The university was unable to comment on the ongoing litigation against the OU board of regents.

Williamson worked at the university from 2002 to Oct. 4, 2017. She was a senior administrative assistant for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the time of her resignation.

She claimed to experience “a severely hostile workplace environment” that now causes her to suffer from anxiety, depression, stress and similar impairments, according to the lawsuit.

Williamson said she disclosed these disabilities to the university and received “a huge number of additional tasks” in return, the lawsuit states. The extra tasks were previously assigned to another employee.

Williamson reportedly explained to her supervisors it wasn’t possible to complete these additional tasks on top of her regular duties. Regardless, her supervisor denied her requests for help and overtime to complete the extra workload, according to the lawsuit.

Her supervisor began to heavily scrutinize her work and later issued a written disciplinary action against Williamson, the petition states. The plaintiff filed a discrimination claim July 25, 2018, and suffered retaliation while she was still employed at the OU College of Medicine, according the lawsuit.

She claimed the university’s lack of reasonable accommodation for her disability directly caused her resignation.

The workplace became “so hostile, intolerable and uncomfortable” that the plaintiff was forced to resign, the lawsuit states. Williamson argued OU hasn’t provided her with disability accommodations or medical retirement after leaving the university.

Williamson is suing for damages, attorney’s fees and compensation for wage loss. She originally filed the petition in Oklahoma County District Court in October. The case moved Wednesday to federal court, as the lawsuit argues OU violated the federal Civil Rights Act, Equal Pay Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman as a court reporter in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia... Read more ›

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