AUBURN — A local woman is suing Bates College charging sex and disability discrimination stemming from her brief employment as the college president’s executive assistant during which she says she was expected to jog, take tennis lessons and watch “chick flicks” with her boss.

A spokesman for the Lewiston college said the college strongly denies the claims and expects to fight them.

Sarah Hulbert, 59, wrote in her complaint in Androscoggin County Superior Court that she was “intentionally” treated differently from her male co-workers, which she said was a violation of the Maine Human Rights Act.

She filed a complaint with that state agency, which, on Dec. 18, issued a letter allowing Hulbert to go forward with her court action. The agency can allow a plaintiff to take a complaint to court if the agency has taken no action on it for more than 180 days since the complaint was filed.

In her lawsuit, filed with the court on March 6, Hulbert said she had been on the job from June 1, 2012, until her termination on July 11, 2012.

In the suit, Hulbert wrote: “Plaintiff’s supervisor, the president of Bates College, (A. Clayton Spencer) expected plaintiff, as a condition of her employment, to engage in activities with the president, such as running, tennis lessons and watching ‘chick flicks,’ which the president did not require of similarly situated male employees.”

Under a count of gender discrimination, Hulbert claimed she has suffered a financial loss and a human loss and seeks compensatory damages at a jury trial.

The college’s actions, she claimed, were taken in reckless disregard of her right to be free from illegal employment discrimination.

She is seeking back pay, reinstatement or front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other costs and interests.

She also is charging disability discrimination, claiming she is disabled due to prior foot surgery. For that reason, she was “unable to engage in the activities expected of her by the president” of the college, including running and tennis lessons. The college “intentionally terminated plaintiff’s employment on July 11, 2012, because of her disability,” according to the suit.

Hulbert is represented by Bangor attorney Arthur Greif.

Kent Fischer, director of media relations and policy adviser for Bates, reacted Monday with a written response: “The college strongly disagrees with the allegations that are outlined in this civil suit and we intend to defend ourselves against it in court.”

In Hulbert’s complaint to the state agency, she said Spencer interviewed Hulbert for the job at Spencer’s home in Winchester, Mass.

“During that interview, Ms. Spencer assured me that she highly valued the personal time that employees should have and wouldn’t … intrude upon that personal time,” Hulbert wrote in her complaint to the agency.

After Spencer arrived on campus on June 25, 2012, Hulbert started experiencing discrimination, she wrote in her complaint. Spencer began to put “expectations upon me” that she didn’t put on her male chief of staff, Hulbert said.

Spencer asked Hulbert to start jogging with her at 5:30 a.m. every day and taking tennis lessons with her and playing tennis with her after hours, Hulbert wrote. She asked Hulbert to join her on Friday evenings to watch “films of her choosing, which she called, ‘chick flicks,'” Hulbert wrote.

When Hulbert told Spencer she couldn’t jog with her every morning because of “prior right foot surgery,” Spencer “expressed significant disappointment,” Hulbert wrote. When Hulbert offered to find Spencer a different running partner, “she reluctantly suggested that I try, but left me feeling pressured to run with her if I wished to continue working for her,” Hulbert wrote.

She told Spencer that she would “reluctantly” try to take tennis lessons with her, but had already said she only engaged in “no-impact” activity because of her foot surgery.

“Although I indicated a willingness to try playing tennis with Ms. Spencer, her reaction at all points was significant disappointment that I was not going to be running and possibly not playing tennis with her,” Hulbert wrote in her complaint to the agency.

“Although being an athletic companion to Ms. Spencer was never part of the conditions of my hire, I now feared that Ms. Spencer would refuse to accommodate my disability and would insist that I be her athletic companion at the risk of losing my job if I did not.”

On July 10, Spencer told Hulbert she was “terminating” her as Spencer’s executive assistant because Hulbert “did not have ‘pizzazz,'” Hulbert wrote.

A human resources officer told Hulbert that if Spencer had “discarded” her, then “no one else will wish to take you” on in any other job there at the college, Hulbert wrote. For that reason, she wrote, Bates had “ratified the gender and disability-based discrimination of its president in refusing to consider me for any other open position with the college.”

According to a 2012 story posted on the Bates College website about Spencer’s first day on the job, and noting her in-coming staff, Hulbert joined Bates from the law firm of Berman and Simmons in Lewiston, having earlier worked at Hebron Academy as the director of research and development.

[email protected]om

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: