Dr. Christine Zeppos, the former dean of Brandman University, was fired in August 2018. Zeppos claims she was fired as a result of her recent claims of witnessing instances of sexual harassment in the workplace. Zeppos filed a wrongful termination lawsuit January 14th including allegations that administration at the school supported a toxic workplace that Zeppos described in court documents as a “misogynistic fiefdom” and a culture of gender-based harassment and discrimination.
The suit filed by Zeppos against Brandman University included allegations of: wrongful termination, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, failure to prevent wrongful termination, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Zeppos claims in the case documents that the school also retaliated against other female employees who had similar complaints.
Brandman University, part of the Chapman University system, is located in Irvine, California. The school denied all allegations made by Zeppos in the lawsuit stating that the administration’s decision to terminate Zeppos as dean of the School of Education was a result of an investigation of complaints that were made against Zeppos by two other female employees that went unnamed. The school claimed that Zeppos refused to accept the findings of the investigators or the corrective action that was in place to allow her to continue as Dean of Education. As a result, the school sought a replacement.
Zeppos’ lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court in 2016. It included allegations that Zeppos complained to Human Resources at Brandman University after she witnessed demeaning behavior toward female employees at the school by the school’s Provost, Charles Bullock. The university ordered an investigation into the Provost’s management style and concluded that there was no evidence of harassment, discrimination or retaliation.
The lawsuit also named the school’s chancellor, Gary Brahm. Zeppos claims that when she was terminated, she was offered a severance package in exchange for what the school called a “release of claims.” Zeppos claims this condition was easily interpreted to mean she would receive a severance package in exchange for her silence on the allegations. According to the lawsuit, she refused.
Students at Brandman University started circulating a Change.org petition in September 2018 calling for Zeppos to be reinstated and pushing the hashtags #MeToo and #StandWithDrZeppos. Close to 700 people signed the petition as of February 3rd.
If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or if you have been wrongfully terminated, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.