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Firing at U of Connecticut results in employment litigation

An unusual employment litigation matter is currently taking place involving the University of Connecticut. A scientist that worked for the college was accused of faking research regarding health benefits of drinking red wine, and he soon after was let go from his position after an investigation of research misconduct was made. The scientist now feels that the process for removing him from his position was improper and was in violation of his civil rights.

This scientist, known for his conclusions that drinking red wine may result in increased longevity, denied that he either fabricated or falsified data to back his declarations. An original committee made up of three individuals at the University could not initially decide at a hearing whether the scientist should be removed. However, another committee made up of five university officials then came to the conclusion that the scientist should be fired.

At stake in this litigation concerns precisely what sort of formality these types of hearings should have before an employee of this stature should be let go. Though the university hearing concerning the dismissal lasted for five days, the scientist claims he was not allowed to introduce certain evidence including exhibits and testimony. He further alleges that testimony was limited to presenting "mitigating factors as to why he should not be terminated."

Also of concern was whether the University of Connecticut actually released details of supposed research misconduct to a number of journals and news sources. If this is correct, this lawsuit will likely become messier than it already is.

Avoiding these sorts of lawsuits to begin with is always the best strategy. Employment matters of this type are increasingly complex for businesses to defend, and without question, employment litigation is more than just a formality. Among other things in this particular matter, the scientist is asking for reinstatement of his tenure, compensation for lost wages and benefits, and the restoration of approximately $1.5 million in funding.

It's for this reason that contacting attorneys that can help in the creation of various policies that will speak to the handling of employment related disputes is in the best interest of companies. Also, implementing procedures so that an employee's grievances can be heard will prevent unnecessary, expensive and lengthy litigation from occurring.

We will have to await the result of the above litigation to determine whether the scientist's claims are actually valid. There are always two sides to every employment litigation dispute. Employment litigation disputes are all singular in nature, and each lawsuit will require research, investigation and sensitive handling.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Fired Scientist Sues University of Connecticut," by Christine Stuart, March 7, 2013

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