UWL investigates discrimination claims - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

UWL investigates discrimination claims

Posted: Updated:
Sandra Sieber Sandra Sieber
Jay Lokken Jay Lokken
Fred Pierce Fred Pierce
La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Two employees at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are accusing the university and fellow employees of discriminating and retaliating against them.

Sandra Sieber, Assistant Director in the Office of International Education, filed a complaint with the Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division in February saying she was discriminated against because of her age (40 or older), her marital status, and because she opposed discrimination in the workplace.

The discrimination, Sieber said, happened when her supervisor's wife, Kimberley Pierce, was hired as the Operations Manager-Associate Director in the Office of International Education. A position, Sieber said, Pierce had "little to no qualifications or experience" to fulfill.

Siebers' supervisor, Jay Lokken, had previously recommended her for the position of Associate Director.

The University denies discriminating and retaliating against Sieber on the basis of her age and marital status.

Legal counsel for the university said Kimberley Pierce's hiring was agreed upon by staff and that Pierce "had the potential for doing a good job."

A second complaint filed by Jay Lokken, former Director of the Office of International Education, contradicts that view.

Lokken stated he felt Pierce did not meet qualifications for the position and furthermore felt discriminated against by the university when he and Sieber voiced their opinion.

Lokken said he was retaliated against after openly opposing the hire of Kimberley Pierce, his supervisors wife. "It would quickly become hostile and a clear attempt to discredit and push me out of the Director position," said Lokken. Lokken also stated that he felt Pierce's hiring violated university policy against nepotism.

As Director of the Office of International Education, Lokken was in charge of overseeing the search process to fill the position of Associate Director. He contends that Fred Pierce interfered with the hiring process because Kimberley Pierce was the only candidate considered for the position.

As the hiring process commenced and afterwards, Fred Pierce, according to Lokken's complaint, began criticizing Lokken's travel expense reports and budget.

Lokken said, in conversations with Fred Pierce, he was encouraged to leave his position and take a different position in the Advancement Office. Lokken viewed this as a demotion.

Kim Pierce, hired in February, resigned as Associate Director on September 10th.

Lokken was removed from his Director position and transferred to the Advancement Office at the end of September.

Fred Pierce now heads the department.

The state will investigate Lokken's complaint after university attorneys respond by November 21.

WXOW News19 reached out to University Chancellor Joe Gow for a comment, Gow said he will let the legal process play out.

WXOW News19 also reached out to Fred Pierce and the Office of International Education, they denied to comment.

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