A civil lawsuit has been filed in federal court against Mississippi State University after a former employee claimed she was discriminated against on the basis of sex.
The female plaintiff, former MSU employee Shannon McLean, was hired by MSU in July 2017. McLean worked, taught and was a student at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
McLean is an active member of the Veterinary Corps, a division of the U.S. Army Medical Department. Her time at MSU was sponsored by the military.
The complaint alleges MSU discriminated against her on the basis of sex, retaliated against her for speech protected by the First Amendment and denied her due process during the course of her termination in January.
Also listed as a defendant on the civil suit is MSU President Mark Keenum.
Other defendants named in the complaint are Dr. Andrew Mackin, Dr. Gary J. Burt and Julie Burt.
The civil complaint was filed last Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Aberdeen.
According to the veterinary school’s website, Mackin is the current head of the Department of Clinical Sciences. Gary Burt and Julie Burt are also listed as employees in the same department.
The complaint claims MSU considers instructor evaluations when assessing its faculty members, with McLean’s evaluations showing "approximately 80% of students" indicating she was a good instructor for the period of July 16, 2018 to Jan.1, one day before she was terminated.
McLean’s legal counsel argues that her evaluation scores were better than one or more of her male counterparts.
Two days after her termination on Jan. 2, Mackin wrote a letter to McLean's commanding officer criticizing her ability to teach, make reasonable interpersonal interactions with other members of the staff and her timeliness in office duties.
Months earlier at a staff meeting on May 24, 2018, McLean's staff reportedly gave positive statements about her work, according to the complaint.
"We have come to enjoy working with her and appreciated her efficiency and direct approach," one statement reads, which was cited in staff meeting minutes.
McLean's complaint further alleges that Keenum, Mackin and both Burts suspected she had sent a letter criticizing the university to an unnamed party and retaliated against her, violating McLean's First Amendment right to free speech.
McLean also claims her termination violated Title IX anti-discrimination laws and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution in that she was treated differently from male counterparts with no "persuasive justification for this unequal treatment."
Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson has been appointed to preside over the case following the recusal of District Judge Sharion Aycock, which was filed Monday.
Attempts by the Starkville Daily News to contact both MSU and McLean's attorney for comment were not responded to by press time Monday.