Aims executives, students file lawsuits alleging discrimination, sexual harassment at the college

GREELEY — Within five days, Aims Community College based in Greeley has been cited in three lawsuits claiming gender discrimination or sexual harassment.

The cases, filed in two situations by an associate vice president and a vice president and in the other by four students, allege discrimination in employment, violations of equal pay acts, and, in the case filed by students, distress caused by verbal and physical sexual harassment.

On Jan. 13, Patricia Rand, the former associate vice president of academic affairs, filed a case in Weld County District Court. She alleged that after 16 years at the college, she was forced to resign Sept. 8, 2021, because of continuing “constant gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.” Her attorney, Kelli Riley of Riley Law LLC, wrote that “immediately after reporting the hostile work environment she faced retaliation from her supervisor,” Russ Rothamer, an executive vice president. She learned that she was being paid less than less experienced, less qualified men performing similar work, according to the lawsuit.

Retaliation alleged in the lawsuit included undermining of her authority and exclusion from information and meetings needed to perform her work.

She seeks damages and costs in an amount that the court would determine, according to the lawsuit.

On Jan. 18, Sarah Wyscaver, vice president of student engagement, inclusion and success, filed a lawsuit similar to Rand’s. She alleged gender-based discrimination and pay levels less than men performing similar work. She also cited a difficult relationship with Rothamer. Her lawsuit alleged violations of state and federal equal pay acts. 

Rand and a third woman, Deborah Clark, assistant vice president of academic affairs, have filed claims with the Colorado Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; both of those administrative claims remain under review.

In an unrelated case, on Jan. 18 four female students in the radiology technology program filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Aims and instructor David Hackmann. In great detail as to dates and circumstances, Tinisha Sasso, Amanda Prout, Melanie Summers and Jona Peters alleged that Hackmann used his position as an instructor to inappropriately touch them in crotch and genital areas when teaching how to position patients for X-rays. He also engaged in inappropriate sexual language and behavior, sometimes observed by others, the lawsuit alleged. Alleged behavior included fake choking, approaching from behind and positioning his groin against the students buttocks, hugging without consent, and attempting or sometimes requiring personal contact outside of the classroom.

Complaints to the department chair of the radiation technology program and to another professor were ignored, the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit alleges violations of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 and sexual harassment and hostile environment violations of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit seeks damages to be determined at trial.

David Hackmann is not listed among Aims employees in the college directory, and Zachary McFarlane, executive director of marketing and communications acknowledged in a Zoom call with BizWest that Hackmann is no longer employed there. He did not provide information about whether his departure was voluntary or compulsory. Contact information for Hackmann was not available.

McFarlane said that Aims as of this morning had not been served with the federal lawsuit and thus “cannot comment at this time.” However, he also said that the college is aware that a lawsuit is out there and administrators will be meeting with legal representation on Tuesday morning.

On the cases filed by executives, McFarlane said in a written statement sent to BizWest over the weekend that “Aims takes claims of discrimination, retaliation, and pay inequity seriously, and values each of its employees. The college reviews such claims and takes action appropriate for each situation. At all times, Aims complied with its obligations to support and investigate any claims of discrimination by its employees. 

“In the present instances, there is no evidence of any unlawful conduct in violation of any applicable laws, nor Aims’ policies. Any suggestion otherwise is purely speculative and based on misinformation.”

“Aims does not typically comment on pending litigation or personnel matters. However, Aims adamantly denies Dr. Wyscaver’s and Dr. Rand’s allegations. These allegations remain pending in an administrative agency that is still investigating the issues and are now pending in civil lawsuits that Aims believes are premature. Aims is cooperating with the agency process and will respond appropriately. Aims believes the allegations should be handled in the agency assigned to review such claims, or the proper court, as opposed to in the media. Dr. Rand voluntarily resigned her employment with Aims, without any advance notice. It is Aims’ understanding that Dr. Rand moved outside of Colorado and accepted new employment the day after she resigned her employment with Aims. Dr. Wyscaver is currently employed by Aims, currently on paid administrative leave. This paid administrative leave took place prior to any allegations being made and/or suits being filed. …

“Further, Aims recently conducted an independent audit to ensure all employees are compensated in a manner that not only reflects their contributions, tenure, and experience, but also complies with all applicable laws. The audit did not reveal any pay inequity in any area including at the VP level. …”

GREELEY — Within five days, Aims Community College based in Greeley has been cited in three lawsuits claiming gender discrimination or sexual harassment.

The cases, filed in two situations by an associate vice president and a vice president and in the other by four students, allege discrimination in employment, violations of equal pay acts, and, in the case filed by students, distress caused by verbal and physical sexual harassment.

On Jan. 13, Patricia Rand, the former associate vice president of academic affairs, filed a case in Weld County District Court. She alleged that after 16 years at the college, she was forced to resign Sept. 8, 2021, because of continuing “constant gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.” Her attorney, Kelli Riley of Riley Law LLC, wrote that “immediately after reporting the hostile work environment she faced retaliation from her supervisor,” Russ Rothamer, an executive vice president. She learned that she was being paid less than less experienced, less qualified men performing similar work, according to the lawsuit.

Retaliation alleged in the lawsuit included undermining of her authority and exclusion from information and meetings needed to perform her work.

She seeks damages and costs in an amount that the court would determine, according to the lawsuit.

On Jan. 18, Sarah Wyscaver, vice president of student engagement, inclusion and success, filed a lawsuit similar to Rand’s. She alleged gender-based discrimination and pay levels less than men performing similar work. She also cited a difficult relationship with Rothamer. Her lawsuit alleged violations of state and federal equal…