Niebauer v. Slippery Rock University

Lawsuit lacks cohesion, weakens discrimination claim

The Rocket
September 4, 2014

In this week’s issue of The Rocket, we covered a story on psychology professor Dr. Christopher Niebauer suing Slippery Rock University, claiming gender discrimination resulting in  claims of a hostile work environment that is limiting his career and causing stress and anxiety. 

Niebauer is the only male professor in the Psychology Department and many of his superiors are female, including the department chair, dean and the president. 

Gender discrimination is a very serious topic and something that is unfortunately present in the United States in many realms. We see pay differences favoring males, comments about women not belonging in the workforce, less opportunity for women to advance, be hired or even questioning as to if women are capable of being effective as presidents. 

We see gender discrimination against males too: male nurses are often looked at as out of place, a man wishing to obtain custody of a child in a divorce is fighting a more difficult battle than a female in the same position. 

This only begins to scratch the surface (in a very broad and incomplete manner) of gender discrimination and is not meant to compare “who has it worse.” The bigger problem at hand here is that discrimination remains prevalent. All claims of gender discrimination deserve consideration and examination and an individual should never feel wrong for bringing what they feel is discrimination to the attention of their superiors or human resources department.  

According to  equalrights.org, “For sex discrimination to be illegal, it has to involve different treatment that negatively affects the ‘terms or conditions of employment.’ ‘Terms or conditions of employment’ include things like your employment status (being hired or fired); your job position or duties; your work schedule, shift, or job location; your pay rate or salary; and advancement and training opportunities.”

Upon reviewing Niebauer’s filed complaint, we think the argument is scattered in terms of drawing a clear case for gender discrimination.

The instances described vary from pregnant women that Niebauer claims were not hired because of their pregnancy, male students feeling discriminated against by female professors and his own encounters with discrimination from the department which seem weak at best. 

Many of the quotes from his colleagues are presented without context and the filing suggests that he cannot be promoted without the support of the department chair and dean who refuse to because he is a male. The stress and anxiety from working in this hostile environment have made Niebauer need services from a chiropractor. 

There is no focus to where the discrimination exists. Are these female professors against pregnant women, students or Niebauer? Or are they discriminating against everyone of any gender or age?

Without being involved in the department, we can’t say for certain what degree this hostility existed or what merit there is to Niebauer’s claim.  It seems like he’s just looking for a lawsuit because he feels entitled to become a full professor and doesn’t see it happening. 

This could be because of gender discrimination, or it could be for a number of other reasons. We aren’t convinced by the filed complaint and Niebauer’s attorney has advised him not to make a statement, so we guess it’s up to the court to decide. 

Either way, we commend Niebauer for bringing awareness to the issue of gender discrimination and for taking action when he felt his voice was not being heard. 

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