Court Case: Pitblado v. Trustees of the State Colleges in Colorado, Western State College

Case History

Bonnie Pitblado, former assistant professor of anthropology at Western State College (WSC) in Colorado, sued the institution for retaliation in violation of Title VII.

Western State College hired Pitblado in 2000 as a visiting assistant professor of anthropology. During that academic year, Pitblado soon realized that Mark Stiger, her senior colleague in anthropology and a tenured full professor, treated female colleagues and students differently from his male colleagues and students. Pitblado claims that while she was a visiting professor and later a tenure–track assistant professor, she repeatedly brought Stiger’s treatment of women in the department to the department chair. The chair remarked on many occasions that Stiger’s behavior was offensive, and agreed that Pitblado was indeed working in a hostile environment. Despite the chair’s acknowledgement of the problem, the situation between Stiger and Pitblado did not improve. Biweekly mediation sessions with the college’s human resources director during the fall 2001 semester also resulted in little progress. Following the conclusion of mediation, the college broke the news to Pitblado that her contract would not be renewed, citing budgetary reasons as justification for this decision.

Pitblado soon learned that a new, part-time lecturer position in anthropology would be offered in the upcoming academic year. Many of the new position’s responsibilities were very similar to those in her current job, and this compelled Pitblado to apply. WSC never acknowledged her application, however. In early 2002, Pitblado came back from a trip to find a job announcement taped to her office door. The announcement described a full time anthropology position similar to the part–time position, with a salary nearly that of her own. However, the full-time position’s job description was written to exclude someone with Pitblado’s qualifications. When Pitblado approached the department chair about the job announcement, he admitted that her non–renewal had nothing to do with budget cuts, and would not offer her any new position.

Pitblado filed her complaint in federal court in May 2003. She reached a confidential settlement with the college in December 2003.

Key Case Issue

Retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.