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Was University of Minnesota's football coach illegally fired?

The college football season may be over, but one incident involving the University of Minnesota's football team is still garnering national attention. As Minneapolis residents might already know, the University of Minnesota fired football coach Tracy Claeys after he stated that he supported a boycott by some football players with regard to a situation in which 10 other football players were suspended after being involved in an alleged sexual incident that was deemed inappropriate. The University bought out the remaining two years on Claeys' contract for $500,000.

However, there are some who believe the firing of Claeys may actually break a number of laws. For example, the suspended football players were all African-American. Therefore, some are stating that it is possible that firing Claeys for supporting them could run afoul of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Under that Act, workers cannot be retaliated against for opposing acts of discrimination or associating with those who do.

In addition, there are some who believe the firing of Claeys may also break Minnesota's whistleblower law. Under that law, a worker cannot be disciplined for bringing attention to their employer's illegal acts. In this case, it is possible that this law may have been broken, as the protesters that Claeys supported believed the University violated the suspended players' due process rights.

According to one source, if the firing of Claeys does indeed go against existing state law, it may be possible for Claeys to seek more than the $500,000 granted to him. However, it remains to be seen what, if any, action will be taken. Still, any workers in Minnesota who believe they were the victims of wrongful termination should not be afraid to speak out against their employer's misconduct, including seeking legal action when appropriate.

Source: StarTribune, "U's firing of Coach Claeys: A chilling lesson - and potentially expensive - lesson," Marshall H. Tanick, Jan. 4, 2017

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