UI amends contract again for employment-practices review, extending timeline

The UI has extended its employment-practices review, which was ordered following the university’s settlement of a gender- and sexual-orientation discrimination lawsuit.


File/The Daily Iowan

FILE – The Old Capitol is shown on Monday, July 25, 2016.

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

Around four months after amending a contract with the Des Moines law firm conducting the University of Iowa’s employment-practices review, the university signed a second amendment to extend the review.

The second amendment, requested by The Daily Iowan, which was signed in September, extends the agreement with Fredrikson & Byron P.A. to conduct the employment-practices review until Jan. 21, 2019, unless otherwise amended. It does not change the projected cost to review documentation and data assessing the UI Athletics Department’s compliance with employment laws and policies regarding equitable treatment of employees.

The original contract with the firm, signed on Nov. 6, 2017, was for $95,000 and was not to extend past Nov. 2, 2018, unless otherwise amended.

The first amendment, signed in May, provided for a third step to review the Athletics Department’s employment policies and practices to find any potential discrepancies between the department’s written policies and the application of them in practice. It specified the cost of that work would not exceed $92,000 and that work would not extend beyond 90 days.

Between the signing of the first and second amendments, former UI Deputy Counsel James Jorgensen, the original project manager for the review, left the UI. Maria Lukas stepped into his role, both as deputy counsel and project manager.

UI Assistant VP for External Affairs Jeneane Beck said the extension in part was to allow for Lukas to transition into the role. Additionally, Beck said, the time allowed for the university to determine how to go about the work, review survey results, and implement the policy recommendations outlined in the first report of the review.

RELATED: UI releases first report from employment practices review

The initial report on the review, released in April, recommended changes to parts of the UI policies on anti-harassment and sexual harassment.

In a statement, the university said that since receiving those recommendations, it has brought the anti-harassment policy “into legal compliance and [has] made the policy clearer and more effective.” The UI changed the sexual-harassment policy to clarify “the use of interim measures to maintain a safe campus environment while an investigation is ongoing.”

“The review is intended to be forward-looking to help the university be the best workplace possible for current and future employees,” said Associated Vice President Cheryl Reardon, the UI chief human resources officer, in the statement. “We are working with Fredrikson to examine the entire employee life-cycle to identify any shortcomings or areas for improvement.”

RELATED: UI reaches settlement with Griesbaum, Meyer

It is unclear whether additional amendments will be needed to complete the review, but Beck said there is not a limit on the number of amendments the UI can make to the original contract.

A date was not provided for when a report may be expected on the findings of the firm’s Athletics Department review.

“Our desire is to make sure that the review is thorough and done well,” Beck said, rather than to place a timeline on the review process. “There was a change on our end that necessitated more time. We’ve given them that time.”

In May 2017, UI President Bruce Harreld announced that a committee comprising administration and shared-governance representatives would select an independent firm to conduct the review of the university’s employment practices, starting with the Athletics Department. The commitee selected Fredrikson & Byron P.A. as the firm in November 2017.

That directive came after a jury ruled in favor of Jane Meyer, a former senior associate athletics director who had filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the university.

Settling discrimination lawsuits with Meyer and Tracey Griesbaum, a former coach, the UI agreed to pay the women $6.5 million to cover their lost wages, legal expenses, and emotional distress.

The self-sustaining Athletics Department funded the settlements, while the review is being paid for with general-fund money because it encompasses the entire university.

After the law firm reviews the Athletics Department, up next for review are the UI’s academic and operational units and UI Health Care.