Jeremy Levitt cleared in Florida sexism, harassment lawsuit

Key parts of a Florida-based lawsuit that alleged sexism and harassment by University of New Brunswick law dean Jeremy Levitt have been thrown out of court.

Florida judge throws out key parts of case against UNB dean's former law school

Key parts of a Florida-based lawsuit that alleged sexism and harassment by University of New Brunswick law dean Jeremy Levitt have been thrown out of court.

The Florida judge hearing the lawsuit against Florida A&M University entered a summary judgment last month in favour of the university, dismissing the hostile-workplace claim by Barbara Bernier, a former professor.

Levitt himself was not the subject of the lawsuit, though Bernier’s court filings made allegations about his actions.

CBC News first reported on the lawsuit last month, after Levitt went on a leave of absence from his job as dean of law at UNB.

Florida A&M had argued that Bernier cited only one example of harassment by Levitt, in April 2009, and that it was "determined to be baseless" by an internal investigation.

"The university investigated and found the claim to be without substance," Florida A&M said in a court filing.

Bernier had claimed in her court filings that Levitt "repeatedly harassed and degraded" her with "derogatory comments" about women and "false accusations of incompetence and unprofessionalism, intimidation and insults."

Those claims are now no longer part of the lawsuit. The only claim that the judge allowed to go forward was Bernier’s claim of gender discrimination about her salary, a claim that made no reference to Levitt.

After the judge tossed out the hostile-workplace claim, Bernier’s lawyer agreed to a settlement with Florida A&M on the pay-equity part of the case.

The settlement included a $200,000 payment to Bernier. She has since objected to the terms of the settlement, saying her own lawyer did not properly consult her on it. That part of the case remains before the courts.

Another lawsuit against Florida A&M that makes allegations about Levitt’s actions, and those of other university officials, is also still before the courts in Florida. None of its allegations have been proven.

Levitt took over as UNB’s dean of law last July and went on leave in January.

UNB hired an outside investigator, Neil Gold, to look into what Gold said in a memo were grievances "respecting alleged harassment by the dean." UNB vice-president Tony Secco said in a memo announcing Gold’s investigation that he had seen no "direct evidence" of harassment at the UNB law school.

Gold’s report, which is confidential, was handed to the university last week and there’s been no word on how the administration will act on it.

In its successful bid to have Bernier’s hostile-workplace claim thrown out, Florida A&M cited her own deposition in which she said she "stayed away from Mr. Levitt" from 2010 to 2012.

The law required Bernier to claim harassment within four years of any incident, but she waited more than four years before adding the alleged April 2009 incident to her pay-equity case, the university argued.

"Plaintiff is a law professor and claims to be admitted to several state bar associations," it argued.

"She should know how to file and state legal claims."

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.