United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
lawsuit stems from a Doane University student's
interactions with her supervisor and academic advisor,
Defendant Donald Belau. Plaintiff Jennifer Fry alleges that
while she was a student at Doane working on her Masters of
Arts in Counseling and also working at two non-profit
corporations (Defendants Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska
(“IMN”) and Nebraska State Suicide Prevention
Coalition, Inc. (“NSSCP”)), Defendant Belau was
the dean and director of Doane's Masters of Arts in
Counseling program and served as Fry's academic advisor
and also as Fry's supervisor at IMN and NSSCP. Fry
alleges that Belau subjected her to sexual harassment.
brings four state-law claims against Defendant Belau:
intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress
(COA 4); assault (COA 6); defamation (COA 7); and
tortious interference with employment relationship (COA
(Filing 52 (Second Amended Complaint).) Defendant Belau moves
for judgment on the pleadings (Filing 62) pursuant to
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “[a]fter
the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay
trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “Judgment on the pleadings is
appropriate when there is no material issue of fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Country Preferred Ins. Co. v. Lee, 918
F.3d 587, 588 (8th Cir. 2019).
a general rule, a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings is reviewed under the same standard as a 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, ” In re Pre-Filled Propane Tank
Antitrust Litig., 893 F.3d 1047, 1056 (8th Cir. 2018)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted)-that is,
“to accept as true all factual allegations set out in
the complaint and to construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff[s], drawing all inferences in
[their] favor.” Ashley Cty., Ark. v. Pfizer,
Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Under the 12(b)(6)
standard, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. However, “a well-pleaded
complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that
actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a
recovery is very remote and unlikely.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal quotation and
relevant factual allegations-which the court must accept as
true-are set forth in the Second Amended Complaint (Filing
11. For all times pertinent to this action, Fry was an
employee of IMN and NSSPC.
12. For all times pertinent to this action, Fry was also a
student at Doane University working on her Masters of Arts in
13. For all times pertinent to this action, Dr. Belau was the
Dean and Director of the Doane University Masters of Arts in
Counseling and Fry's superior, supervisor, and advisor.
Dr. Belau was employed by Doane University during the events
of this lawsuit.
14. For all times pertinent to this action, Dr. Belau was
Chair of the Board and Director of NSSCP and Fry's
superior and supervisor for her work at NSSCP.
15. For all times pertinent to this action, Dr. Belau was an
employee or under a contractual relationship with IMN and was
Fry's superior and supervisor for her work at IMN.
. . . .
18. On or around March 2014, Fry started work as a part-time
outreach coordinator with Defendants NSSCP and IMN because
she was told she could earn internship credit for her work.
19. [In] March 2014, Dr. Belau called Fry into his office to
discuss the job at NSSCP and IMN and made the comment
“sometimes we may need to put in some long hours and
often be out late at night; our spouses are going to think we
are having an affair.” 20. In March 2014, Dr. Belau
came to Fry's office, sat down, rolled his chair to Fry
until their knees touched, put his hand on her knee, and said
“you and I are going to become very close.” 21.
In August 2014, Dr. Belau told Fry she needed to “pull
[her] big girl panties up” in response to Fry telling
him that he was making her uncomfortable.
22. Between August and December 2014, Dr. Belau frequently
remarked to Fry, when preparing for speaking engagements,
that it would “not matter what any of the presenters
said because all eyes will be on you.” 23. In January
2015, Dr. Belau said that Fry was “eye candy.”
After the “eye candy” comment Dr. Belau joked
that he should be careful or he'd get accused of sexual
24. On one occasion Fry bent over and Dr. Belau made a
comment about her buttocks.
25. Dr. Belau told Fry that he was going to get his prostate
examined when explaining why Dr. Belau could not be somewhere
in March 2015.
26. On various occasions, Dr. Belau sent Fry texts on
Saturday mornings which were not work or academic related and
included comments that made her uncomfortable.
27. On various occasions, Dr. Belau made derogatory comments
to Fry and when Fry became upset he told her not to act like
28. On various occasions, Dr. Belau would stand or sit very
close to Fry. He would come into Fry's office frequently
and linger around her.
29. These actions and comments made Fry uncomfortable and she
reported the situation to other Doane University faculty
members and employees. No. action was taken after Fry
reported the situation to other Doane University faculty
members and employees.
30. Fry was delayed in obtaining her degree as a result of
Dr. Belau's acts and Doane University's inaction.
31. On March 24, 2015, a complaint was filed on Fry's
behalf with Doane University's Human Resources
32. During the investigation, Fry was required to move her
office and limit her interactions with Dr. Belau which
required her to stop participating in several organizations
relevant to her field of study.
33. During the investigation, Dr. Belau was not placed on
administrative leave or required to stop participating in
organizations that Fry was a member of.
34. In June 2015, Doane University finally determined that
Dr. Belau's actions violated Doane University policy and