Former employee sues UCF over sexual harassment claims

University investigators say woman’s claims were made in bad faith

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A lawsuit aimed at the University of Central Florida was filed on Tuesday, which claims that a woman had been sexually harassed during her time working for the school.

Court records show that the woman — Maria Gambino — began working for UCF’s College of Medicine back in 2008.

In 2010, Gambino started work at the school’s Parking and Transportation Services department as an administrative assistant, and in the decade to follow, she experienced sexual harassment by her superior, Krishna Singh, the lawsuit claims.

A complaint provides examples of the harassment that Gambino allegedly received from Singh, including forcefully kissing Gambino, smacking her rear end and molesting her.

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In 2020, Gambino reported the harassment to the HR department, though she then saw her work hours cut in half, the complaint shows. The complaint also alleges that other employees had experienced harassment by Singh.

A few months later, Gambino was placed onto administrative leave and banned from the campus, according to the lawsuit.

However, an investigative report by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity says that Gambino’s claims were not “brought in good faith.”

According to the report, witnesses reported that there had been rumors of Gambino and Singh being in a romantic or sexual relationship due to their “casual” and “often inappropriate” behavior toward one another.

One instance noted in the report involved Gambino twerking to music in the doorway to Singh’s office. A witness reportedly told investigators that the two had made “comments bordering on sexual connotations.”

Investigators said that Gambino had tried to renege her claims of sexual harassment, instead wanting investigators to focus on claims of “favoritism” in the workplace.

Additionally, the investigative report says that Gambino had previously made harassment complaints regarding other members of university leadership that led to punitive actions, so she had little reason not to trust the university’s responsiveness to similar allegations.

Investigators did note that Singh had previously pulled a student employee onto his lap — something Singh initially lied about and which “greatly stains his credibility.”

That same student had also complained about Singh’s behavior for other incidents in the past, though Gambino had told the student, “Don’t ever disrespect him like that; that’s a lie, he’s a good man,” the report claims.

The report states that Singh later told investigators that he had never had an illicit relationship with Gambino, though he believed she was trying to retaliate against him because she hadn’t received the remote-work hours she wanted when the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“(Gambino’s) last words were that she was going to fight the University’s position on remote work,” Singh told investigators. “(She) was angry that she had ‘only’ four hours of remote work daily, but 13 of my 22 employees had no remote work.”

While OIE’s investigation yielded evidence that Singh may have engaged in sexual harassment in the workplace, investigators said that Gambino’s behavior — including dissuading student employees from reporting misconduct — pointed toward her making the sexual harassment complaints in bad faith.

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Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined in April 2022.