A former Southern University assistant mathematics professor, who was fired last April after one of his female students accused him of sexual harassment and sued him, is now suing the university.
Jeffrey Thomas, who says in his lawsuit that he's been "unable to find gainful employment in his prior field" since his dismissal, is suing the Southern Board of Supervisors for alleged wrongful termination, breach of contract and violations of his due process rights.
“Professor Thomas is a cultured, talented and tenured professor … who has never been afforded an opportunity to establish the specious nature of the allegations against him, having been given no opportunity to defend himself,” Chris Suba, one of Thomas’ attorneys, said Wednesday. “In this silence, he has been castigated in the eyes of the university and within his community.”
Thomas' firing came 10 months after one of his students sued him and Southern. The woman alleges the university was negligent in handling her sexual harassment complaint to school officials.
A Southern University student says she was taken aback last summer when she asked one of her professors about her grade and, she claims, he re…
Southern spokeswoman Janene Tate said Wednesday she could not comment on Thomas’ lawsuit.
Thomas’ accuser claims he asked her in summer 2015, "Do you want me to grade you on your looks or your test scores?" She also alleges Thomas propositioned her over the course of several weeks, groped her in his office and threatened to give her a D in his class if she didn't sleep with him.
The woman’s suit says she contacted Southern officials about Thomas but was told they needed more proof, so she returned to his office and recorded him saying, “do you want to cuddle for a C?” The woman claims she told him no, and as she walked away, Thomas said, referring to tuition, “your parents will have to pay all that money again.” Thomas also called the woman on her cellphone, a number she had not given him, and told her that grades were due and she needed to come by his office and “do what you gotta do before I give you a D.”
In his lawsuit, Thomas says the woman's sexual harassment complaint "falsely alleged that Professor Thomas physically and verbally harassed the student — allegations which Professor Thomas ardently denied and continues to deny."
The woman’s attorneys, Jill Craft and Brett Conrad, said Wednesday that her audio recordings were previously turned over to Southern for use in its investigation into her allegations.
Thomas’ suit states that “these recordings appear to have been artificially altered as to change the import of what actually occurred.”
Craft denied that accusation.
Thomas’ suit alleges he was not given a chance to present his case during the Human Resources Department investigation prior to initially being suspended and wasn’t given an opportunity to be heard and present his case to the faculty committee and to a “neutral and unbiased” investigatory panel. He also was not afforded a chance to take part in a tenure review process before being fired, the suit says.
Thomas' lawsuit against Southern, filed April 5, seeks monetary damages and has been assigned to state District Judge William Morvant.
The woman's suit against Thomas and Southern is before state District Judge Wilson Fields. It was filed in June 2016 and also seeks damages.
Craft and Conrad said the woman will be graduating from Southern this year.