University nursing dean cited for reprisal

Jenna Wilcox

University of Minnesota Nursing Dean Connie Delaney faces a state human rights finding of discrimination and retaliation for firing an employee who filed an internal workplace complaint, the Star Tribune reported.

Delaney is already under university reprimand for a hiring infraction for hiring a former student for a faculty position while he held a full-time job in Iowa. The Star Tribune also reported in March that Delaney used her department budget to give her brother a job and pay consulting fees to two people with ties to her school's fundraising arm. Provost Karen Hanson found that Delaney violated university policy and stripped her of hiring authority for positions of 30 hours a week or more until June 2013.

The probable cause ruling, issued in February by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, centers on an executive assistant whose job was terminated by Delaney in 2010 after she went to the university's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office (EOAA) with allegations of unfair employment practices. The ruling could result in state mediation or litigation.

The Department of Human Rights investigation found that within weeks of learning about the complaint Delaney decided not to renew the employee's appointment.

Kevin Lindsey, state Human Rights Commissioner, also issued a probable cause finding of disability discrimination in the case. Evidence indicated that the worker performed "very well" in her job and had physical ailments, including multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome and an anxiety disorder that qualified her as a disabled person, the Star Tribune reported.

The disability finding was based on evidence that the dean was indifferent to the accommodation needs of her aide and was unhappy when she took time off for doctor's appointments. The Human Rights Department concluded that the worker's disabilities also were "likely factors" in her ouster, the memorandum said.

Delaney has written to student, faculty and external supporters and expressed regret for employment contracts. She has also accepted full responsibility for non-compliance in the hiring of her former student. "I regret that, in these times, we have not been able to maintain our focus on the incredibly positive trajectory that we have been on as a school, but have needed to stop to look backwards," Delaney wrote to students.