5 claims settled in 5 years

The University of Minnesota settled five sexual harassment claims in the past five years.

Tyler Gieseke

The University of Minnesota has paid nearly $450,000 over the past five years to settle five claims of sexual harassment.
 
According to public records obtained Tuesday by the Minnesota Daily, the five settlements include $250,000 paid out in connection to complaints against Jim Stephenson, the former volunteer assistant women’s gymnastics coach who allegedly sexually harassed gymnasts. The University settled that claim Dec. 9.
 
Jim Stephenson’s wife, former head women’s gymnastics coach Meg Stephenson, resigned in August 2014 after University officials determined that summer that she had violated school anti-retaliation policy by “expressing her significant anger,” according to a letter addressed to Meg Stephenson from the school’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. 
 
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights was investigating last year whether the University effectively tried to stop the sexual harassment by Jim Stephenson and remedy its effects. That investigation is still open.
 
According to the public records — which were originally requested by the St. Paul Pioneer Press — there have been 11 sexual harassment claims against the University across its five system campuses in the past five years. Of those claims, five were settled, four were dismissed and two are pending.
 
The sexual harassment complaints made this summer against former athletics director Norwood Teague were not included in the public records. They only included claims brought to the government officials.
 
The second-largest of the five settlements was an $80,000 payment made in February 2011 for a sexual harassment claim by a former Networking and Telecommunications Services employee. 
 
The University paid $77,500 in April to settle a claim from a former community health assistant in the School of Public Health. The employee claimed sexual harassment, retaliation and other violations. 
 
The University also paid $30,000 in an April 2012 settlement with a University of Minnesota-Duluth student, and the school settled with a former Facilities Management employee who claimed sexual harassment and discrimination for $12,000. 
 
Students who suspect they are being harassed at work should go to University Student Legal Services, said USLS Director and Attorney Mark Karon. Although the service can’t necessarily handle sexual harassment cases, Karon said, USLS staff could help direct students to appropriate resources.