Lawsuit states Southern University took no action after harassment allegations surfaced

Lawsuit states Southern University took no action after harassment allegations surfaced
This is a welcome sign located on the Southern University campus in Baton Rouge (Source: wafb)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Board of Supervisors of Southern University and A&M College is named in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Sept. 11, relating to alleged harassment by staffer, Dr. Bobby R. Phills.

Phills, the former chancellor-dean of the SU Agricultural Research and Extension Center/College of Agriculture, was placed on administrative leave and later resigned Friday, Feb. 1 in relation to an investigation. The university never acknowledged why Phills was under investigation.

The lawsuit states Phills was inappropriate with an employee, stating, “Phills made a number of inappropriate and lewd comments to [her] beginning in the fall of 2016, creating a hostile work environment permeated with sexual harassment. [She] reported Phills’ sexual harassment to Human Resources (Lester Pourciau) in fall of 2016.”

The lawsuit goes on to say, “SU took no action against Phills, and Phills retaliated against [her] for reporting on him to Human Resources by increasing the frequency of his harassment throughout 2017 and into spring and summer 2018, even though [she] began reporting directly to Dr. Johnson instead of Phills. Phills enlisted others to assist in retaliating against [her].”

WAFB posed multiple questions to a spokesman for Southern University Thursday, Sept. 12, including questions about the nature of the investigation against Phills, whether Phills has since returned to a role at the university, and any changes to the university’s sexual harassment policies since the alleged investigation began.

The spokesman said the university does not comment on pending litigation.

The employee initially filed a document claiming university officials engaged in employment discrimination that was reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC responded to that document with a dismissal. The employee is now requesting a jury trial, the lawsuit says.

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