Rutgers president's chief of staff named in age-bias lawsuit

CNN
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 8:40am

Yet another top Rutgers University staffer has come under scrutiny, this time for being named in an age discrimination lawsuit involving three former employees.

Gregory S. Jackson, who was appointed by Rutgers President Robert S. Barchi as his chief of staff in April, is being sued for allegedly unlawfully terminating three staffers in the university's career services department. All of the former employees were in their late 50s and early 60s, according to the complaint, which was filed in a New Jersey court in January.

Barchi was aware of the litigation when he appointed Jackson, according to university officials.

"President Barchi believes that Professor Jackson is an effective administrator capable of confronting challenging and complex problems and is an effective manager and steward of the university's resources," said E.J. Miranda, director of media relations at Rutgers.

Jackson continues in his roles as associate vice president and interim vice chancellor for undergraduate academic affairs and as an associate English professor.

He took over the academic affairs office in January 2011. Almost immediately, Jackson reportedly told staffers that "there was going to be a review of Career Services and that there would be changes." the complaint said. Jackson reportedly implied at several meetings that his practice is to force people to leave or retire and told certain staffers that they should begin to look for other employment opportunities, the complaint said.

In April 2012, the three staffers were notified that they had met standards during their regular performance reviews, the complaint said. Jackson then requested an external review of the department later that month.

"An external review of Career Services was conducted in April 2012 by the Rutgers Office of Institutional Research and Academic Planning (OIRAP)," said Miranda.

The complaint alleges that Jackson revised the performance reviews for three staffers after the external review to reflect that they had not met standards in any of the categories for the positions for which they were being evaluated. All of the employees had worked at Rutgers for more than 20 years. One staffer had worked there for more than 40 years, the complaint said.

In November 2012, the three staffers and the university received letters notifying them of their termination. Before receiving the letters, the three were demoted and forced to work in isolated and dilapidated conditions, the complaint said.

Jackson did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Attorneys for Jackson and Rutgers asked that a judge dismiss the entire complaint. They called the case baseless and inaccurate.

"The University views the plaintiffs' claims in this lawsuit as lacking merit and plans to vigorously defend its business decisions made in restructuring the University's Office of Career Services," said John K. Bennett, the attorney for Rutgers and Jackson said.

Juan C. Fernandez, an attorney for the plaintiffs, declined to comment.

Rutgers has had no shortage of controversy over the past few months.

Head basketball coach Mike Rice came under fire after a video of him physically and verbally abusing players was broadcast on ESPN in April. He resigned, along with Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and assistant basketball coach Jimmy Martelli.

Julie Hermann was hired as the new athletic director in May. Reports surfaced that she had been named in a gender discrimination lawsuit in 2008, while she was working at the University of Louisville. Hermann was also accused of verbal abuse by group of University of Tennessee volleyball players whom she coached in the 1990s.

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