University wins

by Nicole Vulcan

The state Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the University on Tuesday in what is thought to be the first depression-related discrimination case in Minnesota.
A three-judge panel denied the appeal made by Robert Shaw, a former University facilities management employee, who claimed he was discriminated against because of job-related depression. The judges ruled against Shaw because he did not exhaust the University’s grievance process before suing.
Shaw originally filed a discrimination suit against the University in 1995 and was awarded more than $500,000 in compensatory damages by a jury in January 1998.
But Hennepin County District Court Judge Franklin Knoll overturned the decision in early summer 1998, claiming Shaw did not have the right to sue.
Shaw appealed Knoll’s decision in February.
Shaw alleges a hostile work environment caused him to develop work-related depression, a condition that prevented him from performing his duties. Shaw and his attorney, Judith Schermer, claim depression is a condition covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the act, employers must make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s disabilities.
Shaw claims this did not happen. Instead of being transferred to a different department to accommodate his condition, he was fired in 1994.
Because the University is a state agency, employees are required to follow the proper channels before turning to the courts to solve disputes.
Since he no longer worked at the University when he filed the suit, Schermer claims he did not have to follow the grievance process outlined by the University.
According to published reports, University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said using these grievance processes saves taxpayers valuable time and money.
Schermer, on the other hand, said in February that she thought this to be true only for faculty members, not civil service employees.
Neither Schermer nor Rotenberg could be reached for comment.