Penn State instructor sues, claims wrongful termination

For the CDTMay 1, 2014 

— An instructor at Penn State’s Justice and Safety Institute claims he was unjustly terminated in February.

Douglas Cooper, of Gilbertsville, makes the allegation in a civil rights suit filed Tuesday in U.S. Middle District Court against the university; the institute; its director, Don Zettlemoyer; and its program manager, John Sankey.

The suit states that Cooper was hired in May 2007 and had a contract that would have expired June 30 but was terminated Feb. 17.

He said he was called to Sankey’s office that day to discuss his “poor behavior.” The suit claims he was not told in advance the meeting could result in discipline or that he had the right to representation.

The court complaint states that Cooper was told reasons for his termination had to do with his female supervisor, who was not identified, about whom he had voiced concerns last year regarding alleged inappropriate sexual behavior.

Cooper claimed he felt uneasy being alone with her because of the alleged behavior, which is not detailed in the court document.

Cooper claims his due process rights were violated by not being afforded a hearing. The firing has caused him monetary and emotional harm, he said.

He claims the university is obligated to pay wages through June 30 per his contract. His annualized salary was $76,044, the suit states.

He indicates an amended complaint he plans to file after he receives a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will show the reasons he was given for his termination were false and that he was a victim of sex discrimination and retaliation.

Cooper is seeking unspecified compensatory damages and back pay with interest, including the 75 percent tuition reduction for his dependents. He also is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the defendants from engaging in unlawful employment actions.

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