UConn professor wins $736,000, gets job back after questioning school administration and patronage in ‘whistleblower’ lawsuit – Hartford Courant

A UConn assistant professor has been awarded more than $1 million after complaining a decade ago in a whistleblower lawsuit that he was fired in retaliation for raising questions about mismanagement and the favoritism in the school’s business development labs.

The lawsuit against the university by soon-to-be-reinstated business professor Luke Weinstein was filed in 2011 and made its way through state and federal courts — it reached the United States Court of Appeals in twice – before Superior Court Judge Susan Peck ruled recently.

Peck said former business school dean Paul Christopher Earley eliminated Weinstein’s post after Weinstein persisted in expressing concern that Earley’s cost-cutting measures in the business accelerator program school business jeopardize federal funding and that Earley would have made decisions that would have benefited his wife, Elaine Mosakowski, a homeroom teacher. business professor who ran one of the accelerators.

Peck awarded Weinstein approximately $736,000, concluding that he had indeed been fired by Earley in retaliation for concerns he had raised. She said her attorney, Jacques Parenteau, is entitled to a yet-to-be-determined sum to cover 11 years of litigation and expenses.

Attorney General William Tong’s office, which defended the lawsuit, declined to comment, and UConn did not address the specific points raised by Peck’s ruling.

“UConn is reviewing the decision and considering its options in this case, which has had a long procedural history,” spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said.

The full 58-page decision raises questions about the effectiveness of UConn’s internal ethics and compliance agency, the Office of Audit, Compliance and Ethics, which was established in 2006 to investigate compliance issues and advise employees.

Weinstein complained in person and in writing to the office. Then-director Rachel Rubin testified in the lawsuit that she believed the complaints were made “in good faith” but did not investigate, according to the ruling. Instead, Rubin referred Weinstein to the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity.

“Rubin never took any steps to investigate the plaintiff’s allegation of retaliation,” the judge’s ruling read. “Rubin’s advice to the Complainant to go to CHRO indicates that she understood her demands were for retaliation.”

When concerns were brought to his attention that Earley had attempted to increase the grants available to his wife, Rubin raised issues of patronage with the university provost, who chose not to respond, according to the judge’s decision.

John Mathieu, former head of UConn’s management department, testified “Rubin told him she reported the nepotism issues to the provost, but the provost just looked at her and didn’t respond. Ultimately, on June 24, 2010, Rubin sought informal guidance from the state Ethics Office on the matter of nepotism involving Dean Earley and Dr. Mosakowski,” the ruling reads.

Parenteau said, “What is staggering” is the degree to which high-level administrators have simply ignored their obligations to enforce University of Connecticut policies. It’s sort of an acknowledgment that they were powerless to enforce their own rules when dealing with senior executives.

Weinsten earned a doctorate in marketing and management from UConn and was discussing positions with four schools when UConn offered to hire him as an assistant professor in residence, with additional responsibilities as director of the accelerator. of innovation.

Accelerators are experiential learning centers run by the business school to train students and support entrepreneurs.

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Weinstein took the job and was reappointed every year with outstanding performance reviews.

According to the decision, Weinstein had little interaction with Earley until 2010. At that time, Earley decided to save money by changing the way the school compensates graduate students who worked 35 to 40 hours a week at Weinstein’s accelerator.

Under the proposal, students would no longer be paid as employees, giving them coverage under workers’ compensation, but would be compensated through scholarships, with no protection from workers’ compensation. . Weinstein questioned whether the change would violate labor laws and other policies that could jeopardize federal funding, according to the judge’s ruling.

Weinstein also questioned whether there were any potential policy violations in the work Mosakowski’s accelerator was doing interviewing “underage Special Olympics athletes” without prior approval or parental consent.

At one point, according to the ruling, Earley wrote to Weinstein, “I don’t want to hear any more about the matter of labor law or the stock market… I’m rather tired of the roadblocks I’ve raised and I seeing it as counterproductive to what we are trying to achieve.

Earley informed Weinstein in July 2010 that he would not be reappointed as director of the innovation accelerator. One reason was that Weinstein had not submitted the required “letter of interest and CV and provided me with specific assurances that you were willing and able to take on the new program design.” Earley informed him in another letter that he was not renowned as a teacher.

Earley left UConn in 2011. Mosakowski no longer works there either.