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University of Minnesota to pay penalty in discrimination suit

A former women's golf coach has been awarded $5,000 in a discrimination lawsuit she filed against the University of Minnesota. However, the judgment has been challenged by the University in Hennepin County Court.

The former women's golf coach filed a lawsuit against the former director of golf and the university's Board of Regents, accusing them of violating her rights under the state Human Rights Act. The lawsuit alleges employment discrimination due to the fact that the former director of golf prevented the former coach from performing as an associate head coach and had assigned her to administrative tasks after discovering that she was a lesbian.

The former coach's lawyer claims that the University is guilty of destroying evidence against the University and the former director of golf; the evidence was stored in the former coach's cell phone as text messages. However, officials from the University have denied the allegation, stating that the text messages contained no relevant evidence regarding the case. The university had been asked to preserve all evidence relating to the case, including the text messages.

The coach's lawyer claims that destruction of evidence is inappropriate after specifically being told to preserve the evidence. A judge has ordered the University to pay $5,000 as a penalty for destruction of data on the coach's phone. However, the Associate General Counsel has raised an objection, stating that the cell phone did not contain any evidence relevant to the lawsuit.

The University hired the coach as an associate women's head golf coach. However, after a short period of time, a new role was assigned, which removed her from her coaching responsibilities. The former coach approached the athletics director, who asked her to choose between complying with the demands of the former director of golf and resigning. The coach resigned and filed a lawsuit against the University and the former director of golf.

The state court had ruled out the claims for gender discrimination, retaliation by employer and sexual harassment. The sexual orientation claim, however, is still ongoing.

Source: Minnesota Daily, "U fights $5,000 penalty in Brenny case," Nate Gotlieb, Jan. 22, 2013

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