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Lawsuit Claims Head Of Ohio State Research Center Groped, Harassed Student

Ohio State University
Giorgio Rizzoni is the director of Ohio State's Center for Automotive Research.

An Ohio State Ph.D. candidate has filed a federal lawsuit against the director of the school’s Center for Automotive Research, claiming he sexually harassed her and then retaliated when she refused his advances.The lawsuit accuses Giorgio Rizzoni of sexual harassment, groping and taking extensive action to defame his accuser with a potential employer.

The student in the College of Engineering made a human resources complaint against Rizzoni last year, prompting an investigation that determined the student’s claims were false, the lawsuit claims.

“OSU turned a blind eye to Rizzoni’s misconduct and issued a bogus 38-page report that credited all of Rizzoni’s contentions and ignored his demonstrable false statements,” the lawsuit says. “OSU summarily dismissed (the student’s) complaints through unfounded and defamatory attacks on her credibility, without any regard to the effect that would have on her emotional wellbeing, and without any regard to the truth.”

The lawsuit describes one alleged incident at Rizzoni’s home in February 2017, which allegedly started with Rizzoni grabbing the woman’s breast.

“(The student) instinctively threw herself back on the couch to pull away from him and crossed her arms over her chest. Rizzoni stood and leaned over her and squeezed her breast again. While squeezing her breast with one hand, he looked her in her face and laughed. He used his free hand to masturbate through his pants,” the lawsuit sait.

Mesagges left at Rizzoni’s office and emails sent to Rizzoni were not immediately returned.

Ohio State refused to release the full human resources report to the student newspaper The Lantern, saying it’s protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

“Ohio State does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind,” Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson the newspaper. “We cannot comment further due to the pending litigation.”

The university did send The Lantern a copy of a letter sent to Rizzoni in March, saying he could return to work because the investigation found “insufficient evidence to support the allegation.” The letter also said 39 people were interviewed, including faculty members, staff and current and former students.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the number of people interviewed for the human resources investigation.