A lawsuit filed against Southern Illinois University by a former law librarian who was “effectively terminated” in 2009 after allegedly threatening to “bash” a colleague with a crowbar has survived a motion to dismiss.
U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan on September 25 dismissed most of Donald Jason Raymond’s claims against the university and various administrators. But Reagan allowed two claims of retaliation by the university and former law dean Peter Alexander to proceed. Reagan allowed two claims of tortious interference against Alexander and a law library colleague to proceed, provided that Raymond re-pleads those counts by October 12.
Raymond filed suit in June 2011, claiming that the colleague fabricated the crowbar threat to protect her own job; that various administrators violated his rights by failing to fully investigate the circumstances before firing him; and that the accusations have hurt his attempts to find another job.
In its motion to dismiss, the university argued that it followed all the proper procedures in placing Raymond on administrative leave with pay for the past two years. Reagan described Raymond as having been “effectively terminated.”
School of Law spokeswoman Alicia Ruiz said the school would not comment on the pending litigation. Raymond’s attorney, Elaine Siegel, did not return calls for comment.
Raymond, a former law librarian at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, was hired at Southern Illinois in 2008 as a tenure-track assistant professor and law librarian, according to his complaint. He was given a 12-month contract.
According Raymond’s complaint, early in his tenure a student library worker filed a sexual harassment claim against him, although no disciplinary action resulted. In June 2009, Raymond learned that fellow library employee Marilyn Jane Miller had obtained a copy of the student’s complaint, which he had never seen and which was supposed to be kept confidential under university’s policy. Miller showed Raymond the complaint, against the instructions of her supervisor, professor Candle Wester-Mittan, according to the complaint.
The following day, a tearful Miller told library director Douglas Lind that she had given the complaint to Raymond. Lind said he would take the matter to then-dean Alexander, according to Reagan’s ruling. Miller then told Wester-Mittan that Raymond had threatened to hit Wester-Mittan with a crowbar, and later told administrators that Raymond frequently made similar threats against Wester-Mittan, the judge wrote.
Alexander gave Raymond a letter detailing the threats, and Raymond was escorted off campus by police officers, over his protestations that the allegations were untrue, the ruling reads.
On the same day he was escorted off campus, Raymond inquired with employees in the university provost’s office about the procedure for filing a complaint about the university’s handling of the sexual harassment complaint against him.
One week later, the university lodged five charges for termination against Raymond, including the crowbar threat, alleged inappropriate behavior, calling other library employees stupid, and telling law students that they were “too stupid to be in law school,” according to the school’s motion to dismiss.
University officials held two hearings, both times upholding the dismissal.
Raymond claims that university officials withheld key documents and faced conflicts on interest in the matter. He raised 10 claims, including sex discrimination, deprivation of due process, retaliation and tortious interference with contract.
Reagan, who sits in East St. Louis, Ill., allowed the retaliation claim against Alexander, now the founding dean at the not-yet-open Indiana Tech Law School, writing that the claim “appears to be hanging by the thinnest of treads but was not “threadbare.” Raymond had claimed that Alexander terminated him to prevent him from filing a complaint with the provost over the handling of the sexual harassment claim. Reagan found a similar “tenuous thread” in Raymond’s retaliation claim against the university.
Raymond seeks reinstatement to his former job, expungement of all discriminatory statement from his file, compensatory damages and front pay.
Contact Karen Sloan at email@example.com.