Worker’s case will go to trial,judge says

by Kamariea Forcier

It is up to a jury to determine if the University discriminated against one of its former employees, decided U.S. District Judge John Tunheim on Tuesday, after 10 days of deliberation.
University attorney Tracy Smith argued before Tunheim Oct. 4 that Francis “Butch” Mayer was not discriminated against when he was terminated from his University job in 1992. The University was requesting that Tunheim dismiss the case.
But Karla Wahl, Mayer’s attorney, argued that he was treated differently than two other employees hired as maintenance planners by Facilities Management.
“Obviously, my client is pleased with the decision. He wants his day in court,” Wahl said of Tunheim’s decision to let the case proceed to trial.
Mayer started working for the University in 1987 as an electrical engineer. After sustaining a permanent injury to his ankle while on the job in 1988, Mayer was eligible for disability accommodations, such as parking closer to his job and medical leaves of absence.
Mayer was laid off in 1992, at which time he applied for three new University jobs. He was eventually hired by Facilities Management as a maintenance planner, scheduling maintenance operations on a new computer system.
Wahl said her client was concerned that he was not learning the system as quickly as his co-workers, but that his supervisor reassured him his performance was satisfactory.
But after three months, Mayer was terminated from his new position, although the job allowed for a year-long probation period. The probation period gave Mayer one year to learn his job before he could be hired permanently.
However, Smith said during the Oct. 4 arguments that the University was not obligated to keep Mayer during the entire year if he was not performing his job well.
University attorneys claim Mayer was not performing his job satisfactorily. Mayer claims he was fired because of his disability rather than his performance.
No trial date has been scheduled for Mayer’s case. However, that is the next major step in the action.
Smith, an attorney in the University’s Office of the General Counsel, could not be reached for comment.