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Covid-19 Email Caused Illegal Firing, University Director Says

April 22, 2020, 7:02 PM

Indiana University of Pennsylvania illegally fired its director of facilities operations for sending an email to other employees alerting them that the spouse of a colleague had been diagnosed with Covid-19, a new federal lawsuit charges.

Donald Wooslayer says the email also stated that the individual had to self-quarantine, and advised his fellow employees to take necessary precautions themselves and to consult their medical providers.

He sent the email March 30 after first discussing the need to bring the health situation to employees’ attention with his supervisor and with human resources, Wooslayer says in a complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. They recommended that he not alert employees, Wooslayer says.

IUP President Michael A. Driscoll fired Wooslayer the next day, saying the university had lost confidence in him, despite his positive performance reviews, the complaint says. Wooslayer’s health insurance was also canceled even though IUP knew he had ongoing medical issues, the lawsuit says.

The mistreatment violated Wooslayer’s rights under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to speak out on matters of public concern, the suit charges.

Driscoll is named as the sole defendant in both his individual and official capacities.

Cause of Action: 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Relief: Injunction barring further retaliation and discrimination; reinstatement as director of facilities operations; lost pay and benefits; compensatory and punitive damages; attorneys’ fees and other litigation expenses.

Response: The university doesn’t comment on litigation, Executive Director of Media Relations Michelle Fryling told Bloomberg Law on Wednesday. Driscoll didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Attorneys: Rothman Gordon PC represents Wooslayer.

The case is Wooslayer v. Driscoll, W.D. Pa., No. 2:20-cv-00573, complaint filed 4/21/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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