Former employees claim age discrimination

Trey Crumbie

WKU is engaged in another lawsuit while a previously dismissed lawsuit is being appealed, both pertaining to claims of age discrimination.

Terry Reagan, who served as director of development for WKYU, filed a suit against the university on the basis of age discrimination. Reagan was terminated from his job on Oct. 22, 2012 and had worked at WKU for 23 years. Reagan, who is above the age of 40, claims he was fired because of his age.

Reagan claims he has “suffered and will continue to suffer pain and suffering, extreme and sever[e] mental anguish and emotional distress” as a result of WKU’s actions, according to court documents.

Reagan also asserts in the lawsuit WKU engaged in other ‘discriminatory practices’ against him which are not yet fully known.

Deborah Wilkins, general counsel and chief of staff, said Reagan can sue for age discrimination but will need to elaborate on his other claims.

“At some point…he’ll have to be specific as to what he’s claiming, if it’s something other than age discrimination,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins said WKU will start taking depositions and Reagan will then have the opportunity to identify what he thinks is a discriminatory action.

Wilkins said Reagan’s firing was valid.

“We review all job terminations and job eliminations very carefully,” Wilkins said. “There’s no question this was based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.”

Reagan’s termination letter states “a number of changes are being made to organizational structure and personnel. These changes are intended to address efficiency and functionality…as well as continued and anticipated financial pressures from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“The changes which are being immediately implemented include your position — Development Director. Effective October 22, 2012, your position is being eliminated.”

The suit was filed on Oct. 21 of this year. Reagan is seeking awards for his past and future loss of income, past and future pain and suffering, punitive damages, his attorney’s fees and costs and any other relief to which he might appear entitled.

Chris Davenport, Reagan’s lawyer, said Reagan’s employment termination was unjustified.

“He had a long career, and it came to a very unfortunate ending,” Davenport said. “We think unjustifiably so, in contrary to numerous employment laws.”

Another lawsuit, which was dismissed in June of this year, is being appealed.

Raymond Elms, a former employee of the Department of Information Systems, asserts that he was fired because of his age and filed suit against the university on the basis of age discrimination.

Elms was fired from his job in 2010. According to court documents, Elms made approximately 39 hours worth of long-distance phone calls from his office phone over the span of seven to eight months.

Upon further review, Elms made 29 hours worth of personal calls on his cell phone during work hours. A thorough search of Elms’ work computer revealed he had been using his work e-mail for personal communication, and pornographic images were saved onto his computer.

WKU asserts Elms was relieved of his job on the basis of improper phone usage, insubordination and the presence of pornography on his work computer.

The case was dismissed on order of summary judgment.

According to court documents, Elms said after his termination, his workload was spread out among younger employees, but offered no direct evidence.

Wilkins said the judge dismissed the case based on Elms’ lack of evidence.

“You don’t go to trial on something you think, or a feeling,” Wilkins said. “You have to offer some proof of it, and he just didn’t have any evidence.”

Elms appealed the dismissal last month.

Matthew Baker, Elms’ lawyer, said he is he hopeful the appeal will be upheld.

“We believe that he put significant or substantial evidence into the record to support all of the allegations within his compliant,” Baker said.