Court Case: Lissa Lord v. The Curators of the University of Missouri System

Case History

Lissa Lord, former director of electronic communications at the law library of the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law (UMKC), sued the institution for sex discrimination and retaliation for complaining about discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as disability discrimination and retaliation for complaining about disability discrimination under Missouri state law.

UMKC hired Lord in January 2000. She alleged that around July 2001 the law library interim director, in conjunction with the dean of the UMKC School of Law, changed the terms, conditions, and scope of her employment. Lord further claimed that the interim director subjected both her and her female colleagues to a hostile work environment by shouting at them, throwing objects, or pounding on desks to express his displeasure with the female employees of the law library. Lord stated that she complained about this behavior to UMKC officials, including the dean, the UMKC provost, and the chancellor, to no avail.

In March 2002, the interim director gave Lord an 80-page annual review and recommended that the university terminate Lord’s contract. The university did not follow the recommendations at that time. Working conditions did not improve for Lord, and in August she filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights against UMKC alleging sex and disability discrimination. Just three weeks later, the interim director and the dean gave Lord 13 pages of interrogatories and instructed her to complete them or lose her job. Lord refused to answer the interrogatories and instead filed an amended complaint with the state agency to include a charge of retaliation.

In fall 2002, after Lord’s physician determined that she could not continue to work in such a hostile work environment, Lord began medical leave. Lord alleged that even while she was on medical leave, a UMKC official demanded that she drop her discrimination complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights or be fired. Lord refused to do so and filed a second amended complaint with the state agency to include an additional charge of retaliation. UMKC ultimately did not renew Lord’s contract, which expired in August 2003.

Lord filed a complaint in federal court in November 2003. In August 2004, the parties came to a settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, Lord received $81,000—an amount that represents 100 percent of her actual damages.

Key Issues

Sex discrimination and retaliation for complaining about sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and disability discrimination under Missouri state law.