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SCC Facing Two Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

Apr 25, 2019

Two former Southeastern Community College employees claimed they were forced to leave their jobs due to harassment and hostile work environments. They filed their lawsuits in south Lee County District Court on the same day, but are alleging different reasons for their departures.

Susan Dunlay

Dunlay’s lawsuit claims she is a victim of age discrimination. She said in her lawsuit that she took early retirement in 2017 after 20 years on the job to avoid a hostile and abusive work environment.

“While employed by [SCC], [Dunlay] was subjected to harassment in her work environment. [SCC’s] conduct of harassment was based on [Dunlay’s] age. The harassment subjected to [Dunlay] by [SCC] was sufficiently severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would find [Dunlay’s] work environment to be hostile and abusive.

“[Dunlay] was forced to leave [SCC’s] employment because [SCC] deliberately made [Dunlay’s] working conditions so intolerable that [Dunlay] was forced into an involuntary resignation.”

The agenda for SCC’s Board of Trustees meeting for January 9, 2017 states that Dunlay’s departure was for “early retirement.”

Beth Deacon

Deacon’s lawsuit claims she was forced to leave her job due to harassment based on her sex and based on her status as a whistleblower. She said she resigned after nearly three years on the job to avoid a hostile and abusive work environment.

“While employed by [SCC], [Deacon] was subjected to harassment in her work environment. [SCC’s] conduct of harassment was based on [Dunlay’s] sex. The harassment subjected to [Dunlay] by [SCC] was sufficiently severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would find [Deacon’s] work environment to be hostile and abusive.

“[Deacon] was forced to leave [SCC’s] employment because [SCC] deliberately made [Dunlay’s] working conditions so intolerable that [Deacon] was forced into an involuntary resignation.”

Deacon considers herself a whistleblower after making complaints and expressing concerns to her supervisors. She worked in Adult Education, in particular with inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary.

“During the course of her employment, [Deacon] made complaints and concerns to her supervisors and law enforcement officers regarding other employees of [SCC] allowing and assisting inmates at the Iowa Department of Corrections to cheat on educational tests. Employees of [SCC] allowing inmates to cheat on testing allowed [SCC] to claim they were graduating more inmates from the Iowa Department of Corrections Educational Facilities. After making the complaints set forth above, [Deacon] was subjected to a hostile work environment by her supervisors.”

The agenda for SCC’s Board of Trustees meeting for August 14, 2017 states that Dunlay’s departure was for “personal.”

The women are both represented by Keokuk attorney Curtis Dial. They have requested jury trials and are seeking financial compensation.

SCC Response

In court filings, SCC denied all of the allegations made against it in the two lawsuits.

The only items in the lawsuit the college accepted was the basic dates of employment for the two workers and the receipt of “right to sue” letters from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The commission provides letters to complainants in cases where there might be enough to proceed, but the commission will not be moving forward with the case.

A spokesperson for the college said in an email Thursday afternoon that the school could not comment further.