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Sexual harassment, retaliation lawsuit regarding Tony Shipp ends in university’s favor

Staff Reporter

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 18:11

The case against Sam Houston State University involving a dispute between two former professors and art department chair Tony Shipp has been dismissed, according to court documents of the final judgment on Nov. 14.


The lawsuit filed by Garry and Jasmyne Graybill claimed art department chair Tony Shipp created a hostile working environment through sexual harassment and retaliation in their time as employees at the university.


The attorneys for SHSU argued that the Graybills failed to provide sufficient evidence of retaliation in the case against Shipp and the university.


Sam Houston moved for summary judgment because they believed the plaintiffs didn’t have the facts to justify going through with a trial.


To meet their burden of proof, the Graybills attorneys needed to show evidence that indicated there were issues of fact that an unsafe work environment was created based on the couple’s complaints, rather than speculation. The University argued that if the evidence presented to respond to the summary judgment motion could not be proved in a court of law, then the summary judgment should be granted.


The court agreed.


According to the University, the Graybill’s claims only speculate on the possibility that they were “subject to unwelcome harassment on the basis of sex, or that any such harassment affected the term, condition, or privilege of employment.”


The Graybills contested that Shipp made sexual advances both at Jasmyne Graybill and the couple jointly and that it wasn’t until they went public with their concerns that Shipp retaliated.


The married couple was hired by Shipp in the fall of 2008 to teach the new Workshop in Art Studio & History (WASH) program, but resigned in 2009 after the relationship with Shipp and the Art department went south. Their sexual harassment claim was dismissed early in the process.


Complaints of the alleged sexual advances to then-Dean of Arts and Sciences Jaimie Hebert did not lead to disciplinary action against Shipp, rather the Graybills claimed that Shipp reneged on raises he promised and even made their jobs available to other applicants.


But the university said there were “legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons” for the employment decisions that the Graybills opposed, rather than reaction to accusations of harassment.


The Graybills claimed that when they grew tired of Shipp’s invitations at the art office, the behavior continued through text messages, phone calls and unannounced visits to their off-campus offices in the evenings and on the weekends.


The Graybills claimed that Shipp was infuriated after they voted in favor of him stepping down from the chair position. Garry Graybill was even concerned about a subsequent physical confrontation when the couple tried to work out its differences with Shipp in a face-to-face meeting at the advice of Hebert, according to court documents.

The original complaint was filed in October 2011.

 

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