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U of M gay bias lawsuit turns on cellphone, text records

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Ongoing employment discrimination litigation between the University of Minnesota and a former golf coach is now focused on a cellphone. Former women’s associate golf instructor Kathryn Brenny sued the university, claiming that golf director John Harris stripped her of her duties once he discovered she is a lesbian.

Brenny had moved to Minnesota to take the position, but was fired shortly after arriving. She alleged the university discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation.

Key to her claim are text messages from Harris’ university-issued phone. Starting two years ago, Brenny’s attorney repeatedly asked to examine the cellphone, but the university refused.

Finally, the university admitted that the cellphone’s memory had been wiped out before it was issued to another university employee.

The judge in the case ordered the university to pay Brenny $5,000 as a penalty for destroying evidence. The university has appealed, stating that nothing on the phone was relevant to the case.

Advice: Establish procedures to preserve evidence that may be used in litigation, including text messages.

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