- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The University of Minnesota has paid out nearly $450,000 in sexual harassment settlements over the past five years, according to a report published Saturday.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press requested records of all sexual harassment cases involving the university over the past five years after athletic director Norwood Teague resigned last month for sexually harassing two co-workers.

The newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/1FTOjO3 ) that the largest of the five settlements reached over the five years was for $250,000, which the university paid to a student-athlete last December to resolve her complaint related to semi-nude modeling she did for a gymnastics coach.

The volunteer assistant coach, Jim Stephenson, left the team amid the allegations. His wife, head gymnastics coach Meg Stephenson, resigned in August 2014, after she was accused of retaliating against the gymnast by ignoring her at practices instead of giving her guidance.

The student-athlete’s case was the only payout related to Gopher athletics. Two additional sexual harassment cases against the university remain open, and four were dismissed during the period. The cases released to the Pioneer Press predate the accusations against Teague.

Employment law attorney John Klassen said that for a large education system, the university’s record of sexual harassment settlements is relatively small.

“For an organization as large as the U is, with as many employees and as many students and staffers interacting with one another … they’d probably be on the lower end,” he said. While the $250,000 settlement is a “significant amount,” he said, the others appear more “run of the mill” in size.

University spokesman Evan Lapiska suggested that the number of settlements is reasonable given the size of the five-campus system, with nearly 26,000 faculty and staff members who serve about 67,500 students.

“We’re talking about 11 claims of harassment against the university system over a five-year period… and of those 11, we’re talking about five that were settled for sums,” he said.

Overall, the university has paid $4.1 million over the last two years to settle a variety of claims, from employment complaints to medical malpractice.

In the other four cases cited by the newspaper, In 2011, a female customer service specialist received $80,000 to resolve claims that her female supervisor violated university policy. Details weren’t provided. This year, a male research assistant received $77,500. He said his female supervisor was obsessed with him and regularly made sexual comments about him. He said she retaliated when he spurned her advances and complained about unpaid overtime.

In 2012, a University of Minnesota Duluth student received $30,000 after complaining that a wellness center supervisor sexually harassed her and several others while she was working as an instructor. In 2011, a facilities management employee received $12,000 to settle age, disability, race and gender discrimination charges, including sexual harassment.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

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