Lehigh’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit involving a former health center employee was denied on Jan. 15.
Lehigh’s motion to dismiss the case against Christine Feit, a former certified medical assistant at Lehigh’s health center, was filed on Aug. 29, 2019. The lawsuit was filed in May 2017, which alleged the university fired Feit after complaining of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
Federal District Judge Joshua Wilson denied Lehigh’s defense that Feit was untimely in her complaints.
“Therefore, reading the complaint in the light most favorable to Ms. Feit, the court concludes that the complaint alleges a hostile work environment that continued until the time of Ms. Feit’s termination,” Wilson wrote. “Taken together and read in the light most favorable to Ms. Feit, these allegations are sufficient to state a plausible claim for retaliation.”
“In the case of the health center, that one is largely over, so I would hope people who are interested would now put together all the pieces they had heard and can draw all the conclusions they wish to draw,” Provost Pat Farrell said in a December 2019 interview.
The ruling comes after Wilson laid out a pretrial schedule between Feit and Lehigh while the possibility of a settlement remains open. Feit is seeking $1.7 million in damages for harassment she alleged occurred by former interim health center director Thomas Novak between 2012 and her termination in 2017. She claims the university retaliated against her complaints by firing her.
“The University will continue to defend Ms. Feit’s lawsuit and establish that there is no merit to her claim,” said Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s media relations director, in an email.
Should the aforementioned pretrial schedule remain in place, Feit and Lehigh will spend the next several months gathering expert reports and collecting evidence for their sides. Any motion for summary judgment must be made by June 12, 2020.
Novak resigned in October 2019 following an external investigation into the claims commissioned by the university. The investigation, which will not be made public, 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.