Two women file lawsuit against Central State alleging discrimination

Two women who say they were unjustly demoted from their high-ranking administrative positions at Central State University are now suing the university.

Ieesha Ramsey, formerly Central State’s executive director of the Undergraduate Student Success Center, and Lena Fields-Arnold, formerly Central State’s executive director of public relations, both say they were unfairly demoted and retaliated against because they were outspoken Black women.

In Fields-Arnold’s case, the lawsuit alleges that Fields-Arnold should have started at $100,000, but that CSU president Jack Thomas started her at $90,000. He also allegedly asked about her husband’s salary, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also alleges the stress of Fields-Arnold’s job and constant verbal criticism of her caused her to seek medical attention and Family and Medical Leave. After she filed the FMLA paperwork, she was informed she was being demoted and taking a $30,000 pay cut, the suit alleges.

In Ramsey’s case, the lawsuit alleges she was summoned to a meeting with her boss, F. Erik Brooks, vice president of academic affairs, and a human resources officer, in which she was told there had been issues with her job performance. Ramsey said the meeting was the first time she had heard anything about this. The lawsuit alleges that Ramsey’s boss was “intimidated by (Ramsey’s) knowledge and skill set, and the fact she was a female.”

Central State University declined to comment.

Cincinnati law firm Taft, Stettinius and Hollister investigated Central State president Jack Thomas’ actions against five women who worked at the university and who accused him of mistreating employees. The law firm issued a report in February criticizing Thomas’ “leadership style” as “rude, belittling and bullying,” but not rising to the level of discrimination or harassment.

University trustees initiated the investigation after five current and former employees — all Black women with past leadership roles at CSU — wrote a letter to the board last August alleging Thomas harassed and discriminated against them in employment decisions. The university paid nearly $30,000 to Taft, Stettinius and Hollister for the investigation, according to records obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

David Duwell, the attorney for the five women who have accused Thomas, said the law firm plans to file three more lawsuits against the university on behalf of the other women.

Duwell said being rude and insulting is not a “leadership style.”

“At best, these words point out serious character flaws in someone who does not care how he interacts with others,” Duwell said. “On a more extreme end, they point to someone who can potentially cause irreparable harm to others, as he has done to my clients.”

Duwell said bullying is intentional and causes emotional, mental and physical harm. He said the clients were trying to resolve this matter without taking it to trial, but his clients are still open to an out-of-court resolution.

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