A former Ohio State employee filed a lawsuit against the university on March 28, saying it failed to respond to complaints that his department chair sexually harassed him after learning that he was gay.
According to the complaint, Stephen Kuntz – a former Buckeye Link advisor in academic student services – resigned from his position in January 2020 after claiming that the State of Ohio had failed to remedy the hostile work environment. he had suffered at the hands of Associate Director of Student Services, Sam Falcone.
After Kuntz revealed his sexual orientation to his colleagues, he claimed that Falcone – who is also openly gay, according to the lawsuit – made unwelcome advances to her, including making suggestive verbal remarks and touching Kuntz without her consent.
“[Ohio State] knew or should have known of the harassment and hostile work environment, but failed to take immediate or corrective action,” the lawsuit said.
Lawsuit said Ohio state actions were violated Title VIIwhich prohibits unlawful discrimination against a person because of their race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation) or religion.
Elizabeth Tuck, Kuntz’s attorney, said in an email that it was unfortunate that Kuntz had to take legal action to “get the University to take the situation seriously.”
Kuntz seeks reinstatement to his job, damages, and present, past, and future compensation and lost benefits, according to the lawsuit.
University spokesman Chris Booker said in an email that the allegations set out in the complaint were not reported to the university until Kuntz’s exit interview on the last day of his employment. . The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the State of Ohio Office of Institutional Equity both reviewed the allegations and found no evidence of a violation.
According to the lawsuit, Kuntz disclosed his sexual orientation to co-workers, including Falcone, in March 2019. After that, the lawsuit said Falcone began harassing Kuntz.
The lawsuit said Falcone told Kuntz he had a sex dream about him, made comments about Kuntz’s legs, and called him a “stud,” among other things. He also claimed that Falcone would go out of his way to be near Kuntz, touching him in non-consensual ways at times.
The lawsuit claimed that Falcone did not behave that way with heterosexual employees.
Falcone did not respond to a request for comment.
Kuntz was afraid to report his harassment, according to the lawsuit, because of what he said was Falcone’s history of “firing, promoting or demoting employees at will.” The lawsuit said Kuntz feared he would be fired or blocked from the promotion if he stopped personal communication with Falcone.
The lawsuit claimed that other employees reported Kuntz’s behavior to management, but it does not specify which employees or when.
The lawsuit claimed that Kuntz told human resources about the sexual harassment during his exit interview, but Ohio State approved the resignation, allowing Falcone to work for the university for eight months while the case was under investigation. The lawsuit argued that the State of Ohio concluded that Falcone “may have engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct”, but no action was taken or required.
Tuck said Kuntz hopes the complaint can inspire others to stand up to hostile work environments.
“He hopes taking a stand will encourage others to speak up when managers or others abuse their power for their own gratification,” Tuck said.