Connie Delaney


First, a reprimand, now U's nursing dean cited for reprisal

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY
  • Star Tribune
  • April 2, 2012 - 9:19 PM

University of Minnesota Nursing Dean Connie Delaney, who is already under university reprimand for a hiring infraction, now faces a state human rights finding of discrimination and retaliation for firing an employee who filed an internal workplace complaint.

The probable cause ruling, issued in February by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, could result in state mediation or litigation. It centers on an executive assistant whose job was terminated by Delaney in 2010 after she went to the university's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office (EOAA) with allegations of unfair employment practices.

Within weeks of learning about the complaint, Delaney decided not to renew the employee's appointment, the Department of Human Rights investigation found.

"The Department has concluded that the [dean] terminated the charging party's employment as an act of reprisal discrimination,'' according to a case memorandum issued by state Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. "The investigation yielded extremely persuasive evidence ... that there was indeed a causal connection'' between the worker's dismissal and her EOAA complaint against the dean.

Lindsey also issued a probable cause finding of disability discrimination in the case. Evidence indicated that the worker performed "very well'' in her job and had physical ailments, including multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome and an anxiety disorder that qualified her as a disabled person.

The disability finding was based on evidence that the dean was indifferent to the accommodation needs of her aide and was unhappy when she took time off for doctor's appointments. The Human Rights Department concluded that the worker's disabilities also were "likely factors'' in her ouster, the memorandum said.

Delaney referred questions to University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, who said the former employee's complaints are still being addressed. Rotenberg emphasized that there have been no findings of guilt or innocence and said the university has significant evidence showing that no unlawful action was taken against the worker.

Reprimanded in March

Delaney, who was hired from the University of Iowa in 2005, was reprimanded last month for her 2007 hiring of Thomas R. Clancy, a former Ph.D. student of hers at Iowa. Against university policy, he joined the U's faculty as a clinical professor at 75 percent time while continuing to work 100 percent time at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City for 17 months. Delaney knew of the arrangement, which was not properly reported at the U, the reprimand said.

As reported in the Star Tribune last month, the March 6 reprimand strips Delaney of her hiring authority for positions of 30 hours a week or more until June 2013.

Multiple witnesses

The Star Tribune received a copy of the Human Rights findings from the former worker on the condition her name not be published. She and her attorney are considering how to proceed. They have the option of conciliation mediation through the Human Rights Department or suing the university in state court.

The commissioner's memorandum said "multiple witnesses" gave information to investigators showing "that the Dean would be likely to retaliate against a subordinate for making a discrimination complaint.'' Evidence from multiple witnesses also showed "that, in general, the [former aide] is much more credible than the Dean.''

A third allegation, of racial discrimination, was dismissed.

Delaney called an all-school assembly March 19 to discuss issues raised in the Star Tribune story, and she has written to students, faculty and external supporters. She has expressed regret for employment contracts granted to her brother and accepted full responsibility for non-compliance in the hiring of her former student. But those communications also have stressed school accomplishments under her leadership.

"I regret that, in these times, we have not been able to maintain our focus on the incredibly positive trajectory that we have been on as a school, but have needed to stop to look backwards,'' Delaney wrote to students.

Tony Kennedy 612-673-4213

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