U. Minnesota technicians’ case extension denied by Supreme Court

Posted 5:43 p.m. March 6

by Jamie Meltzer

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court strengthened states’ rights and reaffirmed the power of the 11th Amendment in their ruling last week in a discrimination case.

The High Court reaffirmed earlier decisions that states are separate entities with specific laws that the federal government cannot override without specific reasoning.

The question of state’s sovereignty was raised by the case Raygor, Lance & Goodchild, James v. Regents of the University of Minnesota.

In a 6-3 decision last week, the Supreme Court said federal supplemental jurisdiction cannot extend the 45-day tolling period that defines how long an individual has to file a lawsuit after the initial complaint because it would be a violation of the 11th Amendment. This decision prohibits Lance Raygor and James Goodchild, technicians at University of Minnesota, from raising their lawsuit again in any court.

“They have no case; it’s over,” their attorney Howard Bolter said. “They are devastated.”

Raygor and Goodchild were senior radio and television broadcast technicians at University of Minnesota. After 27 years of employment, Raygor, then 53, was asked by his employers to choose between an early retirement and being laid off in 1995. In a similar fashion, Goodchild, then 52, was offered the same choice after 26 years at the same company.

Both men refused an early retirement and were demoted to a lesser paying position.

Bolter said the demotion had devastating effects on his clients. “They were demoted, which is demoralizing (and) humiliating. Not to mention it impacted their pocketbooks, because they lost $15,000 a year in the late stages of their economic years,” Bolter said.

Following the university’s decision, Goodchild quit immediately, but Raygor continued to work before deciding the situation was too overwhelming.

In August 1995 Raygor and Goodchild filed separate claims in federal district court alleging violations of the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA).

Their claims were consolidated and dually refuted by University of Minnesota, which used the 11th Amendment as its defense. The amendment prohibits lawsuits against states in a federal court. The men re-filed their case, alleging they had been discriminated against because of their ages, a violation of the MHRA.

The university was handed a decisive victory last week when the court dismissed the case on the grounds a lawsuit cannot be re-filed more than 45 days after the initial claim.

Attorney Lorie Gildea, for the Regents of University of Minnesota, could not be reached for comment.

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