Local lawmakers continue to be embroiled in a sex discrimination lawsuit over the alleged wrongful termination of a Minnesota Senate aid. The aid was fired after he apparently had an affair with his boss who was the senate majority leader at the time.
As we’ve discussed in a previous post, the former senate employee does not specifically deny the allegations of the affair, but says that female employees who engage in similar conduct have not been terminated and that his firing was the result of sex discrimination. Senate officials say that his firing was lawful since he was an at-will employee at the time, which means that employers do not need to provide a reason for a termination.
In addition to the controversy over the allegations themselves, there is also considerable discussion about the costs associated with the lawsuit, which is being funded by taxpayers. The most recent bill to come from private attorneys working for the Minnesota Senate has brought the present total to more than $100,000.
While it’s not usual for employers to invest significantly in legal defenses for discrimination suits that they believe are without merit, this situation presents special challenges because of the mix of public and private issues at stake and the use of taxpayer money.
Other members of the Minnesota Senate are calling for the Republican party to set up a legal defense fund to pay for the costs of the lawsuit, saying that this has been the course of action in the past for intraparty conflicts. However, this situation seems more complex since it is an employment matter and the senate, not the Republican party, was the man’s employer.
Source: Minnesota Public Radio, “Senate’s Brodkorb legal bills hits six figures,” Tim Pugmire, August 23, 2012.