We recently posted about our experiences with adult bullies and noted that the bullying phenomenon, so much in the news recently, does not end with youth.
So what is a victim to do? Well, the only recourse we know of is to fight back. And that's exactly what my wife and I are doing.
Regular readers know that I was unlawfully terminated from my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Much the same thing happened to Mrs. Schnauzer at Infinity Property and Casualty. And we had the full rights to our house unlawfully auctioned by the sheriff's office in Shelby County, Alabama. We officially have begun to fight back in federal court.
I recently filed a lawsuit against the University of Alabama Board of Trustees (the legal entity over UAB) and various individuals in connection with my unlawful termination. (See the complaint at the end of this post.)
My wife and I have filed a lawsuit against Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry and other individuals involved in the unlawful auction of our house. We will be reporting about the basics of that case, and publishing the complaint, shortly.
Evidence strongly suggests that unlawful actions in both cases were driven, at least in part, by individuals connected to Republican Party politics.
Both lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Defendants have been served, and the early phases of both cases are under way. We will be reporting on both cases, in real time, here at Legal Schnauzer. (My wife's case against Infinity is being investigated by the EEOC, and we will move forward once that phase is completed.)
Our reporting on these cases will be different from what you find in mainstream news outlets. I know from 11 years in the newspaper business, that reporters who cover courts often regurgitate what judges, lawyers, and clerk's offices feed them. Reporters almost never ask the following questions: Are the judges and the lawyers handling this case in a lawful manner? Are the parties acting in a truthful manner?
We will be asking those questions, and providing answers, as the cases unfold. It's another example of how the Web has changed the world of journalism. Such reporting would not have been possible a few years back. With the advent of blogs, it very much is possible now.
What is the gist of my lawsuit against the University of Alabama? The No. 1 allegation is that the university fired me because of the content on my blog about matters of public concern. This constitutes a First Amendment violation, encompassing retaliation and wrongful termination. UAB certainly will contest this, but the truth is not in doubt. From the complaint:
One of the university’s own employees, Anita Bonasera, stated in a tape-recorded conversation that plaintiff was targeted for investigation and ultimately termination because of his blog content about the Don Siegelman case.
We have published key segments of this audiotape before, and you can check it out again. I tape recorded the conversation with Bonasera, who is UAB's director of employee relations, after she and my former supervisor, Pam Powell, placed me on administrative leave. A link to the three-minute segment is below. For about the first 1:40, Bonasera and I discuss the nature of my job duties. At about 1:50, she admits my job issues are related to my blog. And at roughly the 2:08 mark, she admits I was targeted because of the Siegelman content on my blog.
A key point: Bonasera states that Powell had met with university IT personnel to examine how I had used my computer at work. I was the only person in our department who was subjected to this kind of investigation--and it revealed, as came out in my grievance hearing, that I had never written the first word of my blog on UAB equipment or time. Powell apparently designated certain items from my computer usage as "non-work related activity." Bonasera reveals this to me in a conversation that took place roughly two weeks after I had filed an official grievance against Powell in UAB human resources and had complained to Powell's superior, associate vice president Dale Turnbough, about ongoing age discrimination.
UAB policy says an employee is to use the grievance process without fear of reprisal. But roughly two weeks after I filed these grievances/complaints, I was placed on administrative leave. One week after that, I was fired. It's hard to imagine a more blatant example of retaliation. And my taped conversation with Anita Bonasera reveals that UAB targeted, harassed, and terminated me because of the content on my blog:
Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case
The lawsuit also includes federal charges of age discrimination, gender discrimination, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights (42 U.S. Code 1985) and action for neglect to prevent (42 U.S. Code 1986). State-law claims for defamation and tortious interference are included in the complaint. The lawsuit also lists fictitious defendants who I plan to name once they are identified through the discovery process. Anonymous threats I've received on this blog, including one specifically mentioning my job, indicates persons outside of UAB were partially driving this termination train.
A scan of Legal Schnauzer archives shows that the vast majority of posts are about legal matters involving other people--former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Mississippi attorney Paul Minor, U.S. Justice Department whistleblowers Jill Simpson and Tamarah Grimes, and many others.
But the case against the University of Alabama hits about as close to home as you can get. Several individuals, with the OK of the university's leadership, effectively ruined a career that I had spent 19 years building--30 if you count my 11 years in the newspaper business--and left me in a position where it is almost impossible at age 53 to find a job in my chosen field.
My guess is that the vast majority of Americans never have had an inside look at an employment lawsuit, especially one that involves such flagrant violations of basic civil and constitutional rights.
We intend to provide an inside look that, to my knowledge, has never been presented in American journalism. Does our justice system still work for everyday Americans? We will be finding out.
(Note: I was terminated on May 19, 2008, and the UAB lawsuit was filed on May 17, 2010, within the two-year statute of limitations for a First Amendment claim. The EEOC took way more than the 180 days it is allowed to investigate my claim, but upon my request, the agency issued a right-to-sue letter. Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a plaintiff 120 days to complete service on defendants. Service was completed on all defendants by September 15, within the time frame allowed by law.)