2 former Carlson employees sue for discrimination

Dan Haugen

A lawyer for two former Carlson School of Management employees suing the University for gender discrimination will ask a judge next month to force the school to release a report he said details a pattern of discriminatory behavior by their former supervisor.

Attorney Alf Sivertson filed complaints against the University in Hennepin County Court in March on behalf of Staci Hinrichs and Velvet Walker. Both resigned from their positions at the Carlson Executive Development Center in September, citing a hostile and demeaning work environment.

Hinrichs’ complaint also alleges discrimination based on her pregnancy. Each plaintiff is asking for $50,000 for wage and benefit loss and mental anguish.

Sivertson said the University report shows the school had knowledge of complaints against the center’s director, William Scheurer, and failed to take appropriate action.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg was unavailable Tuesday for comment on the report’s availability but has denied the discrimination allegation against the institution.

In its legal reply, the University said its conduct was “neither discriminatory nor unlawful” and that it “used reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any improper behavior in the work place.”

“We have investigated the allegations and they do not indicate any unlawful gender discrimination or discrimination based on pregnancy,” Rotenberg said.

Scheurer had no comment Tuesday and deferred questions to the general counsel’s office.

No trial date has been set. Sivertson said he hoped to have a hearing on the motion to obtain the report scheduled within a few weeks.

Sivertson said the report contains the results of a 2001 investigation of Scheurer’s behavior by James Meland, University human resources director.

“(Meland) was designated to do a full-scale investigation into Mr. Scheurer’s conduct towards women in the workplace,” Sivertson said. “Both of my clients were interviewed, in addition to numerous other women. The sad part of this whole thing is that the Carlson School of Management has known about Mr. Scheurer’s attitude towards women and looked the other way instead of protecting them.”

Sivertson said the University did not include Meland’s report in the discovery materials he requested. The report is highly relevant, highly comprehensive and highly damaging to Scheurer and the University, he said.

Meland declined to release the report Tuesday and would not confirm its existence.

On April 11, The Minnesota Daily requested University documents relating to any internal complaints against Scheurer. A University Relations employee said Tuesday the documents were not available but confirmed two formal complaints had been filed against Scheurer.

Both were closed without discipline.

Rotenberg said discrimination claims are the most common form of University-related litigation.

“The vast majority of them are resolved in favor of the University,” he said.