Former employee appeals suit

Joe Lord

Oral arguments were heard in the appellate case concerning a lawsuit filed by a former Western employee against the university on April 24 in Elizabethtown.

Robert Dye is appealing a jury ruling in March 2001, which found that Western did not discriminate against him when he was fired in 1997. He was seeking $2.4 million in damages.

The appeal was heard before a three-judge panel from the Court of Appeals.

The judges indicated that it could be as many as three months before they made a decision, said Nancy Roberts, Dye’s attorney. Dye is seeking a new trial.

“We don’t expect that to happen,” General Counsel Deborah Wilkins said.

Greg Stivers, Western’s attorney, said the panel asked him no questions during the appeal hearing.

“…Which usually is a very good sign,” he said.

The university is also cross-appealing by saying the lawsuit should have never gone to a trial in the first place, Stivers said.

Roberts said Dye is appealing because, among other issues, five of the jurors had connections to the university and only one of them was black.

“I think a person has the right of a jury of their peers,” she said.

Dye was fired on Oct. 2, 1997 after allegedly threatening two resident assistants and publicly arguing with a coworker.

During the trial, Roberts argued that Dye’s supervisor was intent on firing the building services attendant.

Dye could not be reached for comment.

Roberts said Dye’s firing was based on his race and disabilities. The Herald reported in 2001 that he had an irregular heartbeat and back problems.

“Robert was portrayed as big, black and violent,” Roberts said. “Anyone, after a period of time of having more than one incident where he was put into more than one disparaging position, would not be able to calmly react to anything.”

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]