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University files motion to dismiss discrimination lawsuit brought by former associate dean

<p>The Queally Center for Admission and Career Services.</p>

The Queally Center for Admission and Career Services.

The University of Richmond has moved to dismiss the gender discrimination and hostile work environment lawsuit brought by former associate dean Della Dumbaugh because of a “failure to state a claim upon which any relief can be granted.”

The lawsuit, Dumbaugh v. University of Richmond, was filed in the Richmond Division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 24.

In it, Dumbaugh, a professor of mathematics, claims that she was discriminated against by Patrice Rankine, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and was effectively fired from her position as an associate dean of the school.

Click to read the motion filed by the University of Richmond to dismiss the lawsuit brought by mathematics professor Della Dumbaugh.

The motion to dismiss with prejudice — along with a memorandum of law supporting it — was filed on Feb. 15. Because the motion to dismiss is one with prejudice, the plaintiff cannot file a future case on the same grounds if the motion is granted.

As the defendant, UR has also requested that “it be awarded its attorneys’ fees and such other relief as the Court deems appropriate,” according to the memorandum.

“We’ve filed the motion,” Cynthia Price, director of media and public relations, said in an email statement. “You can find the University’s position in the motion.”  

Stephanie P. Karn, an attorney and partner at Kaplan, Voekler, Cunningham & Frank PLC, will serve as counsel for the university, according to the motion. Karn could not be reached for comment. 

The memorandum states that Dumbaugh’s Title VII gender discrimination claim fails because “she has not pled, and cannot show, any adverse employment actions,” wherein adverse employment actions are defined as “discriminatory [acts] which adversely affects the terms, conditions, or benefits of the plaintiff’s employment.”

Click to read the memorandum filed by the University of Richmond supporting its motion that a lawsuit brought by mathematics professor Della Dumbaugh be dismissed.

UR states that Dumbaugh fails to identify any actions taken by the university that detrimentally altered the terms and conditions of her employment in the memorandum. Instead, the plaintiff “merely alleges she was the recipient of ‘sharp remarks,’ an instance of shouting, criticism on her handling of certain tasks, and being called out for labeling her supervisor as disingenuous,” the memorandum states. 

UR also argues in the memorandum that Dumbaugh, as a matter of law, was not constructively discharged, and that the alleged actions she described in her lawsuit — unpleasant working conditions, work assignment dissatisfaction and a feeling of being unfairly criticized — “are not so intolerable as to compel a reasonable person to resign.”

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It adds that Dumbaugh “voluntarily quit,” fewer than three weeks after Rankine reappointed her as associate dean in August 2017, and did so “without explanation.”

Regarding the claim of a hostile work environment based on gender, the memorandum states that Dumbaugh did not allege any facts “supporting the conclusion that any harassment she experienced occurred because of her … gender” nor cite any instances when her gender was referenced by any UR employee.

The memorandum also states that the allegations do not show conduct “severe and pervasive enough” to create a hostile and abusive workplace.

Karn, a graduate of the T.C. Williams School of Law, has her field of practice in employment law and securities issues. She also “counsels and defends colleges and universities” on matters including Title IX, tenure issues and reductions in force for both staff and faculty, according to her law firm profile.

Scott Crowley, Dumbaugh’s attorney, declined to comment.

Contact senior news writer Arrman Kyaw at

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