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Collin College hit with fourth lawsuit alleging hostile work environment

A former employee says multiple college leaders “made the environment intolerable” and dismissed her complaints.

Adding to a growing list of lawsuits, another former Collin College employee is suing the school, alleging that multiple leaders discriminated against her based on her race and gender.

Swee Lian “Linda” Wee, 56, said administrators also harassed her and sparked a hostile work environment.

“They have made the environment intolerable for me,” Wee said. Later, she said, “I gave them countless opportunities to take my concerns ... to try to seek resolution, but time and again, they have ignored, dismissed my concerns.”

Wee filed the lawsuit on July 13 and seeks up to $1 million. Hers is the fourth case brought against the college in the last year.

The lawsuit names president Neil Matkin; Bill King, vice president and provost of the Collin College Technical Campus; Karen Musa, an executive dean; Floyd Nickerson, chief human resources officer; and the board of trustees.

“The college looks forward to defending the claims in court and is exploring its legal options, including counterclaims, which may be available after further review and assessment,” Collin College spokeswoman Marisela Cadena-Smith said in a statement.

None of the college administrators named in the lawsuit responded when asked for comment.

After working as a professor for four years and being promoted to the college’s director of continuing education in 2016, Wee applied for the newly created position of executive dean of continuing education.

The lawsuit alleges that King, who was Wee’s direct supervisor at the time, told her that her application was rejected because the college wanted someone “who would be able to present themselves to C-suite executives” and who had a doctoral degree.

The college hired Musa, a white woman who also lacks a doctorate, and she became Wee’s supervisor, according to the lawsuit.

“The only difference between Ms. Wee and Ms. Musa is that Ms. Musa is White of British origin, and Ms. Wee is Asian of Chinese descent, born in Singapore,” the lawsuit reads.

In the lawsuit, Wee alleges that Musa excluded Wee from meetings, discussions and decisions and took over direct reports.

In early 2020, Musa reached out to Wee and asked her to work despite Wee being on leave to be with her husband who was undergoing surgery that same day, according to the lawsuit.

Later that year, Wee brought up her concerns with King, who dismissed them and told her that she “would have to deal with difficult bosses,” the lawsuit claims. Wee then filed a formal complaint with human resources and sought a transfer to another department but was denied, according to the lawsuit.

In February 2021 — after receiving her first negative evaluation since starting at the college — Wee filed a complaint against King for “engaging in and allowing discriminatory practices harassment targeting and bullying” towards her, the lawsuit reads.

A Resolution Review Panel, which is part of the college’s grievance process, dismissed her complaints. Wee’s lawsuit calls the hearing a “sham” because at least one panel member reported to either King or Musa.

Last September, Wee resigned “after the college provided her no protections in the workplace” and repeatedly ignored her concerns, the lawsuit claims.

Lisa Ventress, Wee’s attorney, notes that her client isn’t the only one to experience difficult conditions at Collin College. She pointed to other recent lawsuits against the school.

“We want to get to the root of the systemic civil rights violation at the college,” Ventress said.

Last year, Suzanne Jones, a former professor at Collin College, filed a federal lawsuit against the school and its leadership, alleging that she was pushed out for criticizing the college’s COVID-19 response.

In January, Lora Burnett, who previously taught history at the college and lost her job after posting tweets criticizing the school’s COVID-19 protocols and of then-Vice President Mike Pence, resolved her lawsuit with the school. Burnett accepted a $70,000 offer to end the dispute.

Two months later, Michael Phillips, another former history professor, sued the school. He alleges that his contract was not renewed over his outspokenness about campus COVID-19 protocols and community issues.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression is representing Jones and Phillips in their ongoing cases against Collin College.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.

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