Community college sued over COVID-19 mitigation efforts

By: - November 16, 2021 11:44 am

The campus of Hawkeye Community College in Black Hawk County. (Photo by Hawkeye Community College.)

A community college in Black Hawk County is being sued by a former employee who claims the school failed to adequately enforce COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

In lawsuit filed recently in U.S. District Court, Christen Everett alleges she worked for Hawkeye Community College as an academic advisor from February 2018 through May 2021, when she was forced to resign.

Everett claims that at the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, she and other employees were allowed to work from home. They began returning to partial on-campus work in the fall of that year.

She alleges the school “failed to put in place proper protocols responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic and thereby placed the health and safety of their employees in jeopardy.” The protocols that were put in place, she alleges, were not enforced, adding to the risks faced by employees.

She claims she reported her concerns about the safety protocols to the school’s human resources director on multiple occasions, and that the issues were never addressed. She alleges she was forced to resign due to the school’s ongoing failure to ensure the health and safety of the staff.

As part of her lawsuit. Everett claims she asked for permission to work from home 100% of the time as an accommodation for medically diagnosed anxiety and depression. She was twice denied that opportunity. Those denials, she alleges, constitute a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on disability-based employment discrimination.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission reviewed Everett’s claims earlier this year, and in July issued her a right-to-sue letter that allows her case to be heard in court.

The school has yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.