Professor sues University of Idaho over handling of sexual harassment complaint

He says the school did not follow its policies when investigating the allegations made in 2011.

MOSCOW-PULLMAN DAILY NEWSNovember 28, 2013 

MOSCOW - Sanjay Gupta and his wife, Archana, filed the lawsuit last month in Idaho's U.S. District Court, claiming wrongful termination after Gupta was fired in 2012 over the sexual harassment allegations.

The ordeal damaged his reputation and caused him financial and emotional distress, he said.

U of I spokeswoman Karen Hunt said Tuesday university officials had no comment.

Nick Gier, president of the Idaho Federation of Teachers, said the IFT is backing Gupta with $8,000 for legal fees.

Gupta was hired in 2008 as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant, Soils and Entomological Sciences.

Gupta's suit said he told his research assistant in October 2011 that she could lose her job because she didn't have the right skills. She complained to Gupta's immediate supervisor and a week later, Gupta received a letter from the university notifying Gupta of the sexual harassment complaint and an impending investigation. The investigation concluded Gupta had sexually harassed the assistant.

Gupta and Gier both say the university failed to follow its own policies for handling complaints against employees, such as not preparing a written statement informing Gupta of the complaint's details.

The suit says the accuser violated a confidentiality agreement she and Gupta had agreed to when she told members of the Indian and scientific community Gupta was "going to prison." The university failed to take action against this violation, the suit says.

Gier said Gupta's due process was violated, and he believes it's likely a result of the university's sensitivity to such cases following the death of graduate student Katy Benoit, who was killed that same year by her onetime lover and professor, Ernesto Bustamante.

"The university jumped on this, they sided with the accuser, they expedited the process without giving Sanjay the benefit of the doubt," Gier said.

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