Ex-U employees file lawsuits

Kamariea Forcier

During the break between summer and fall classes, several former University employees filed lawsuits against the University claiming discrimination and wrongful termination. Here are two cases to watch for in the next months.
ù A former employee of the University of Minnesota Press filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court on August 16, claiming charges of sexual harassment, retaliation and race discrimination.
Biodun Iginla was an employee at the University Press from 1989 to 1996. According to the complaint, Iginla was subjected to explicit sexual comments, racial comments, random criticism and hostile behavior from his supervisor, Lisa Freeman.
Iginla filed a complaint in December of 1995 with the University’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Department regarding Freeman’s behavior toward him.
His lawsuit claims that within two weeks of his formal complaint, he was no longer allowed into his University Press office. According to the complaint, Freeman changed the locks on Iginla’s office door, changed his voice-mail and informed him that his employment contract would not be renewed for the next year.
Iginla is suing the University of Minnesota Press, the University and the state of Minnesota for sums in excess of $50,000 for his claims.
Carla Kjellberg, Iginla’s attorney, said her client’s case is strong.
“I see no explanation, outside of racism and retaliation, for the University’s actions,” she said.
Lawyers for the defendants responded in the answer to the complaint that Iginla’s claims of harassment, retaliation and discrimination are false. They agree that Iginla was informed his contract would not be renewed, but did not state why Iginla was assigned new job duties.
ù A research scientist who worked in the Department of Neurology from 1993 to 1995 is suing the University for sums in excess of $50,000 for discrimination, defamation and breach of contract.
According to the complaint, Dr. Zheng-Xuan Shen accepted a postdoctoral associate position with the Department of Neurology in 1993, with the agreement that her job emphasis would be as a research scientist.
Shen was accused of intentionally falsifying research data in 1994 by Karen Hsiao, an associate professor in the department and her direct supervisor, according to the complaint. Hsiao accused Shen of professional misconduct and being in violation of professional research ethics. As a result of the charges, Shen was denied access to her research station. Shen’s employment was terminated in June of 1995, without reasonable cause or justification, according to the complaint.
Shen claims her termination stemmed from malice or personal disdain by Hsiao.
According to the answer to the complaint filed by University lawyers, Hsiao discovered inaccuracies in research data prepared during her absence, which violated University research ethics. University lawyers claim that the neurology department acted within its rights when it terminated Shen from her position.