Federal officials have dismissed a claim against North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott.
Lisa Feldner, former Hagerott chief of staff and NDUS vice chancellor, filed a civil discrimination complaint against Hagerott in 2017.
Feldner, who was fired by Hagerott without cause last September, originally filed documents in November 2017 with the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights accusing Hagerott of gender discrimination. She also included a 17-page narrative containing allegations that painted Hagerott as a sexist manager who singled out employees for matters of health, age and sexual orientation, the Herald previously reported.
The claim was later picked up by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigates workplace civil rights claims. The EEOC dismissed the claim Monday, stating it was not able to conclude whether there had been a violation of federal statute.
“Based upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statues,” the notice said. “This does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”
“The respondent” refers to NDUS.
While the notice of dismissal gives Feldner the opportunity to file a lawsuit in federal or state court against NDUS based on her claims of discrimination, Feldner said she has decided not to follow through with that option.
“While it’s disappointing that the EEOC’s investigation was inconclusive, it’s important to note that they also said the dismissal doesn’t prove that the University System has been vindicated in any way. Instead, the EEOC has issued me a Notice of Right to Sue,” she said in a statement. “Although I have the opportunity to file suit, I am choosing to put this behind me. I am moving on and building a career in the private sector.”
NDUS spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius said that given the legal nature of the matter, the department would defer questions to the Attorney General’s Office.
“We are pleased with the findings of both the Labor Department and the EEOC, and we appreciate the efforts and hard work done by these agencies,” Lorius said in a statement.
Don Morton, chairman of the State Board of Higher Education, declined to comment on the matter and cited the university system’s statement.
EEOC public affairs specialist James Ryan said in an email that the office could not comment on the matter.
“Under federal law, possible charges (complaints) made to the EEOC are strictly confidential, and we are prohibited from commenting on them, furnishing any information on them, or even confirming or denying the existence of such a charge,” he said. “Any written materials or decisions that may have resulted from a charge or any resulting investigation are likewise confidential by law.”
The EEOC is only allowed to furnish more information when it files suit, as it becomes public court record.