UPDATE: Feit and Lehigh met for a pretrial conference earlier Friday. The parties will proceed with preparations for a trial while leaving open the possibility of a settlement.
Judge Joshua Wolson laid out a scheduling order for both parties to follow. Within two weeks, both sides will “meet and confer to set aside dates to hold open for depositions before the close of discovery,” court documents said. Discovery is a legal proceeding in which both parties disclose their evidence and information.
Affirmative expert reports will be due April 24, 2020, and rebuttal expert reports will be due May 15, 2020. All discovery must be completed by May 29, 2020, and any motion for a summary judgment must be made by June 12, 2020. A summary judgment is when the judge decides the case alone, without a full trial, if it is deemed either party’s body of evidence is overwhelming.
Settlement discussions will also be ongoing in the event the two parties can reach an agreement.
“The former employee’s claim of wrongful termination has no merit, given her documented clinical errors,” read a statement from Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations. “The university will establish that Plaintiff’s factual allegations and legal claims are without merit.”
Deirdre Kamber Todd, Feit’s attorney, was not available for comment. Nancy Conrad, Lehigh’s attorney in the case, was also not available for comment.
Christine Feit, a former certified medical assistant at Lehigh’s health center between 2008 and 2017, has requested $1.7 million in damages in her lawsuit alleging harassment and retaliation against Lehigh, new court documents released Thursday show.
The new information comes as both Feit’s attorney, Deirdre Kamber Todd, and Lehigh’s attorney, Nancy Conrad, go through the legal process of initial disclosure. Initial disclosure is when both parties make each other aware of the names of individuals likely to have relevant information or evidence to one party’s case, as well as a copy or description of relevant data or documents that are relevant to the case, among other items.
The initial disclosure forms for both parties were made available one day before a scheduled pretrial conference in Philadelphia between Feit and Lehigh. The pretrial conference will occur on Friday, where the judge might make a ruling on the motion to dismiss the case Lehigh filed in August. Feit is seeking a trial by jury.
The initial disclosure forms completed by Feit’s attorney document seven other either current or former female health center employees who have allegedly experienced or witnessed inappropriate actions by Thomas Novak, the former interim health center director.
Feit’s initial disclosure also states that four of the seven women who claim harassment, retaliation or inappropriate behavior also reported their complaints, either to Human Resources or to supervisors at the health center. Feit alleges in her lawsuit she met with Human Resources twice, but her complaints were dismissed.
Novak resigned in October following an external investigation launched by Lehigh found “an office workplace environment that was inconsistent with university values and with professional expectations.” An email sent by the university administration on Sept. 13, however, said the investigation found no evidence to substantiate the claims made against Novak.
The lawsuit in court operates separately and independently from the university’s investigation. Lori Friedman, the university’s director of media relations, previously told The Brown and White that the full report will not be made public. She would not say whether Novak was paid while he was on leave, a period which began May 31 when Feit’s lawsuit went public — years after Feit alleges she brought up her complaints to the university.
One of the individuals, Christine Finley, a former secretary in the health center, claims she collected a “Good Wife” flyer Novak allegedly handed out to his female staff.
Lehigh’s initial disclosure lists eight individuals, including Feit, who may have relevant information pertaining to the case. Lehigh lists Human Resources employees Linda LeFever and Judith Zavalydriga in its initial disclosure, the two Human Resources employees Feit alleged to have met with over her complaints of Novak. Lehigh also lists out at least 10 sets of documents, including personnel records and the university’s policies toward harassment and discrimination.