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Former University of Minnesota employee sues for discrimination

A former executive assistant for the dean of the University of Minnesota's School of Nursing has filed a federal lawsuit, alleging discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation.

The complaint represents the next stage in the assistant's dispute with the university. Earlier in the year, she filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC determined that she had probable cause to file her discrimination report because the dean had failed to accommodate her disability, and thereafter fired her in retaliation for the claim.

The assistant claims she suffers from migraines, coughing and burning eyes around certain chemicals due to her disability of multiple chemical sensitivity. Her complaint alleges that the dean repeatedly refused to accommodate her disability by wearing a perfume she was allergic to and by not allowing her to place a sign on her desk declaring the environment to be chemical-free.

According to statistics compiled by the EEOC, retaliation claims across the country have more than doubled since 2000, accounting for 37.4% of all charges filed with the EEOC. Sources attribute a variety of factors for the increase in retaliation claims, which may, in fact, be a good thing.

For example, more employees may have access to information regarding the employment law protections available to them. In a sluggish economy, difficulty finding alternate jobs after a layoff or termination may cause other workers to resort to retaliation suits. Another reason may be the probability of success: retaliation charges result in favorable outcomes for employees more than other types of discrimination suits. Finally, punitive damages are also frequently awarded in retaliation lawsuits, representing amounts up to 3 times the amount of the compensatory award.

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you and violated federal or state laws in your workplace, an attorney can help you prepare a claim. An attorney can also protect your rights in the event your employer retaliates against you for reporting unlawful conduct.

Source: Minnesota Daily, "Nursing dean conflict could go to court," June 27, 2012

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