The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected a retaliation lawsuit that alleged reverse discrimination at Capella University, the nationwide online institution of higher learning based in Minneapolis.
Ellen Bahr used to work in the communication department at Capella. Bahr, who is white, supervised a black employee referred to as L.A. in court papers. Bahr believed L.A. wasn’t meeting expectations and wanted to put her on an improvement plan.
When Bahr approached HR, she claimed she met resistance. She was told that L.A. had a “racially based” history at the university. Bahr’s supervisors feared a bias lawsuit if Bahr took any adverse action against L.A.
Bahr countered that L.A.’swas affecting the entire department and that the favorable treatment she was receiving actually constituted discrimination against all the other employees in the department.
Capella officials responded by firing Bahr because of the “poor work dynamic” in her department.
Bahr filed suit under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, claiming she was fired in retaliation for refusing to go along with the university’s allegedly discriminatory treatment of L.A.
A state trial judge dismissed her case, and now the state Supreme Court has done the same.
Justice Alan Page, who is black, dissented: “Bahr may have reasonably believed that Capella’s race-based preferential treatment of L.A. constituted reverse discrimination against Capella’s nonblack employees who were subject to all of Capella’s performance and disciplinary standards.”
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