By Tammy Grubb - email@example.com
CHAPEL HILL A hearing could continue this week into UNC’s handling of a sexual harassment claim against a former Housekeeping Department director.
UNC housekeeper Maria Isabel Prudencio-Arias testified last week at an administrative hearing at the UNC School of Law Moot Courtroom. She claims the university violated the state’s whistleblower act in handling her sexual harassment complaint, attorney Al McSurely said.
University Attorney Katherine Murphy contends the whistleblower act does not apply, because Prudencio-Arias’ complaint wasn’t filed with the Office of Human Resources.
UNC employees can request an administrative review or file a grievance in harassment cases. Ann Penn, an Equal Employment Opportunity Institute coordinator, said the initial report can be made to a supervisor or administrator, preferably in the employee’s department.
Prudencio-Arias contacted the university ombudsman. He referred her to Penn’s office, where she sought an administrative review.
Although Prudencio-Arias says she was fired in April 2011, the university says she has been a continuous employee since 2006.
She can only seek damages for violation of the Whistleblower Act, McSurely said.
The most important aspect of the case is “how insensitive the university was for three or four months,” McSurely said.
Penn said Thursday that she didn’t find enough evidence to support the claims of sexual harassment. However, Penn did find that former Housekeeping Services director Bill Burston acted inappropriately.
She also testified that Prudencio-Arias did her job poorly at the School of Government after an injury restricted her ability to work. Prudencio-Arias still works at the university.
Burston, who resigned last year, was not retaliating when he transferred her to other positions to address those issues, Penn concluded.