Disability suit ruling favors fired U employee

Former University employee Robert J. Shaw was awarded $532,933 in Hennepin County District Court on Friday after a jury decided the University fired Shaw without just cause.
Shaw was seeking $1 million in compensatory damages, alleging that the University retaliated against him for filing grievances with his bosses.
He also said he was discriminated against because of his depression, which he said was a disability. The case is believed to be the first in which a Minnesota jury heard arguments for depression as a workplace disability.
According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, a person is considered disabled if their condition inhibits a “major life activity,” such as walking, hearing or seeing. A University human relations manager had earlier deemed Shaw not legally disabled.
The law states that employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees with disabilities; Shaw had asked to be transferred but was denied.
Shaw, a project manager for Facilities Management, was fired in 1994 and underwent a series of electric shock treatments to erase his memory following the ordeal.
The jury did not rule on whether Shaw was discriminated against because of his proposed disability, but did decide he was fired without just cause.
“We are very disappointed with this decision,” said University head attorney Mark Rotenberg. “There is no basis of this amount, since the jury found no discrimination.”
Rotenberg added that the University counsel will petition Hennepin County District Court Judge Franklin Knoll to reduce the amount, a move that is at the judge’s discretion.
Neither Shaw nor his attorney, Judith Schermer, could be reached for comment.