The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees should not be held liable in a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by a former UK employee, an attorney for the board wrote in a motion filed Friday.
The lawsuit was filed last year by Mary Cowan, who was a custodian in the engineering building. Cowan's lawsuit says former co-worker, Billy Haynes, a refrigeration division supervisor, sexually harassed her and other employees.
The lawsuit, filed last June, says the harassment began in fall 2007. Cowan's suit says Haynes made "crude and sexually oriented" comments to Cowan and that Haynes' behavior created an "intimidating, hostile, harassing or offensive work environment."
Submission to the harassment became an implicit condition of Cowan's employment at UK, according to the lawsuit, which also names Cowan's former supervisor, Pat Blair, as a defendant.
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Cowan, who became a custodian at the university in 2006, is seeking punitive damages for "lost wages, pain and emotional distress." According to the board's motion, the trustees are not liable for any harassment Cowan suffered because university officials acted appropriately when supervisors became aware of Cowan's allegations.
Terry Allen, the vice president in charge of UK's Office of Institutional Equity, investigated Cowan's harassment report and recommended that Haynes be terminated within a week of Cowan's disclosure, said Barbara Kriz, the board's attorney. Haynes instead took early retirement.
Kriz also said the board and Blair are not liable because they did not employ Cowan. The motion says the university was Cowan's employer, but it says Cowan couldn't prove that UK was negligent in responding to her allegations.
The board also says that Cowan testified during a deposition that the harassment happened only once and that she was not pressured to put up with Haynes' behavior. Cowan testified during her deposition that she did not lose any wages because of the harassment, according to the board's motion. She stopped working at UK because of medical problems, the motion said.
Cowan's attorney, Denise Brown of Louisville, did not respond to a request for comment.
Fayette County Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell will consider the board's motion Aug. 21.