Counselor at U files anti-gay discrimination suit

An academic counselor at the University of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that he was discriminated against due to his sexual orientation.

Richard Marsden, who is gay, has been an employee of the University of Minnesota for approximately 13 years. During that time, he has served primarily as an academic counselor in the athletic department. Marsden's lawsuit alleges that the university discriminated against him both in salary and by "creating and condoning a hostile and oppressive work environment."

Marsden's lawyer, Judy Schermer, says that he was being paid less than a straight colleague who had started the same day and had the same experience. Additionally, Schermer notes, Marsden had received better performance reviews than his straight counterpart.

The ongoing hostility of the work environment, which allegedly included Marsden not being allowed into the locker room for meetings, eventually forced Marsden to be hospitalized, Schermer says. Marsden's doctors, she adds, have informed him that he cannot return to his position within the athletic department, as it would trigger further episodes of depression. "The doctors have told him 'there's no way we can let you go back there under any circumstances,'" says Schermer.

Marsden, according to court documents, has asked for reassignment to a new job outside the men's athletics department. "It's been seven months since we first started trying [to have Marsden reassigned]," Schermer says. "We tried many ways internally to get this resolved, but Rick eventually felt forced to file the lawsuit. Here's someone who has basically dedicated his life to the U of M. You would hope that the U would be a leader, would be an educational force to help the community understand that this is unacceptable behavior."

Marsden is seeking more than $50,000 in monetary damages as well as a court injunction that would force the university to reassign him to another job.

The U, which has issued no public response, has until Nov. 27 to respond to the complaint.

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