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$1 damage award in University of Minnesota harassment case

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

A federal jury has awarded just $1 in damages to a former University of Minnesota doctoral student in a two-year-old case that alleged a professor had sexually harassed her on a research trip to Alaska.

In 2011, the 29-year-old student took a research trip with the 59-year-old professor, a scientist on the university faculty. She claimed the professor told sexually explicit jokes, took a picture of her backside and pressed her for a romantic relationship. However, she did not report the harassment when she returned from the trip.

On a second research trip with the professor and another faculty member, the student claims the man behaved himself when his colleague was around, but continued his harassment when they were alone.

Shortly after returning from that trip, she was assigned to work with the alleged harasser. That’s when she reported the incidents. University officials then moved her to a different office, but told her she would still have to work with the professor. She resigned from the program two weeks later and filed an EEOC harassment complaint.

Efforts to resolve the dispute through the EEOC’s conciliation process failed, and she filed suit in federal court seeking damages for lost career opportunities.

The judge in the case, however, instructed the jury to only compensate her for emotional pain and suffering not related to her quitting school. That led the jury to award her just $1.

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