Was He Fired For Being A Man?

Michael WartellLots of workplaces are making concerted efforts to recruit women and minorities. But that pursuit of diversity can sometimes step on the wrong side of the law. That's what the the former chancellor of a major Indiana university is claiming. According to his lawsuit, reported by INC Now, he was forced out at the retirement age of 65, and replaced by a woman just a year younger.

For 19 years, Michael Wartell served as the chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, the fifth largest public university in Indiana. During his reign, the longest in the university's history, Wartell led the university to some great achievements: 25 new buildings, a 150 percent increase in enrollment, and NCAA Division 1 status in athletics. The university even honored Wartell with a Champion of Diversity Award. So he was a little surprised when he was asked to step down in 2012.

Purdue has a policy that all high-level administrators must retire at 65, but Wartell's lawsuit claims that exceptions have always been granted to anyone who requests it, except for him. "... it's not a policy, because they've only used it on one person," Wartell's attorney Mark Ulmschneider told The Journal Gazette, "and it was the one person they shouldn't have done it to because he was doing his job too well."

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Wartell, who now has the title of chancellor emeritus, with a chancellor's salary of $236,000, reported the Journal-Gazette, thinks he knows why the university decided to enforce the rule with him: University President France Córdova wanted to replace him with a woman. And Wartell was replaced with a woman, Vicky Carwein, who is just a year younger. Wartell's lawsuit states that Córdova specifically said in a meeting that she wanted to hire more women, and pointed to a picture of Wartell, stating explicitly: "I am going to replace this one with a woman."

Wartell filed a complaint of discrimination and harassment against the university, and so Purdue hired an investigator to examine Wartell's complaint and present his findings to a board of trustees. A year ago, the board found the university had not violated its discrimination policy. But Purdue refused to let Wartell see a copy of the investigation, the lawsuit states, claiming the investigator was not an independent party, but the university's attorney -- and so did not have to disclose any documents.

Now, Wartell's suing the university, its 10-member board of trustees, and its vice president of ethics and compliance, for four counts of gender discrimination, violations of his due process rights, and breach of contract. Cordova, the president Wartell is accusing of bias, left Purdue last year to head the Smithsonian Institution, and was replaced by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

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