An Oakland psychologist has accused Pleasant Hill-based John F. Kennedy University in a federal lawsuit of unfairly firing her from an assistant professor job because she participated in a burlesque show.
Sheila Addison sued the university, President Steven Stargardter and an affiliated company, National University Services LLC of San Diego, in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Addison, a clinical professor with a Ph.D., began working as an assistant professor in the university’s graduate school of professional psychology in 2007.
The civil rights lawsuit says Stargardter told her in a June 21, 2010, letter that she was fired because of her performances in a San Francisco-based burlesque show entitled Hubba Hubba Revue.
The show offers political and social commentary on gender and sexuality and Addison’s performances “were designed to challenge traditional views of the role of women,” the lawsuit says.
Among other claims, Addison alleges the university discriminated against her in violation of federal and state law because it took no action against a male professor who appeared in a different off-campus show that included disrobing and partial nudity on stage.
“The male professor was held to a different standard because of his gender and was not disciplined for his performance,” the lawsuit alleges.
Addison says she performed under a pseudonym, never revealed her connection with the university and never discussed her performances with students, while the unidentified male professor advertised his one-man show on campus and invited students and faculty to attend.
The suit also alleges federal and state civil rights violations that it describes as “harassment for failure to conform to gender norms.”
It contends a university statement that said she brought public disrespect on the institution showed illegal “disgust for a woman performing in politically, socially and sexually based performance art.”
Other charges in the lawsuit include alleged breach of contract, wrongful termination for political activity and invasion of privacy.
“Defendants acted with reckless disregard for the true nature of Dr. Addison’s politically based performances with the Hubba Hubba Revue and chastised her ‘behavior’ to students and faculty,” the suit alleges.
The lawsuit asks for both lost pay and a punitive financial award.
A university representative referred questions about the case to Stargardter, who was not available for comment on Thursday.
The case was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of San Francisco and a case management conference has been for June 24.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News
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