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Mahmoud Saffari has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging civil rights violations, discrimination, defamation and violations of the state Data Practices Act.
CASE 0:13-cv-00030-MJD-LIB Document 1 Filed 01/03/13 Page 1 of 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA ______________________________ Mahmoud Saffari, Plaintiff, v. COMPLAINT St. Cloud State University, President Earl H. Potter III, Defendants, Jury Trial Demanded ______________________________ Plaintiff, Mahmoud Saffari for his claims and causes of action against the Defendant alleges as follows: PARTIES, JURISDICTION AND VENUE 1. This case arises under Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et. seq. (hereinafter “Title VII”), the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. §363A.01 et. seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Minnesota Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. § 13.01 et seq, and the common law of defamation. 2. This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §2000 (e) and 28 U.S.C. §1331 (Federal question). 3. This Court has pendent jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims arising under the laws of the State of Minnesota, since plaintiff's federal and state claims arise out of the same operative facts, circumstances and transactions. 1 CASE 0:13-cv-00030-MJD-LIB Document 1 Filed 01/03/13 Page 2 of 7 4. To the extent required by law, a charge of discrimination has been filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Notice of Right to Sue has been obtained. All conditions precedent to the filing of this lawsuit have been met. 5. At all times pertinent to this lawsuit, defendant St. Cloud State University, (SCSU) is a publicly supported university organized and operated under the laws of the State of Minnesota and is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. 6. At all times pertinent to this lawsuit, defendant Earl Potter III is the president of St. Cloud State University. 7. At all times pertinent to this lawsuit, Plaintiff, Mahmoud Saffari (“ Dr. Saffari”) is an Iranian Muslim male who immigrated to the United States, who now and at all times relevant was a resident of the State of Minnesota. At all times material herein, Plaintiff Saffari was employed as the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at SCSU. General Allegations 8. Plaintiff has been discriminated against on the basis of his national origin, color and religion and has been denied the equal protection of the laws, in that among other things, he has been subjected to a hostile and offensive and intimidating environment, discriminated against with respect to the terms and conditions of his employment, and terminated and retaliated against for exercising his right of free speech and to petition his government for redress of grievances. 9. During his eight years of service, plaintiff substantially increased the enrollment of students of color. He also built a diverse staff in admissions. 10. Under his leadership, enrollment had steadily increased through 2010. 2 CASE 0:13-cv-00030-MJD-LIB Document 1 Filed 01/03/13 Page 3 of 7 11. On several occasions, he was directed not to share enrollment figures with faculty or a particular administrator and when he raised issues or concerns about factors that were negatively impacting enrollment he was silenced. 12 He was threatened with termination if he continued to try and raise these matters. 13. Plaintiff filed his first internal complaint of discrimination in 2005. From that time forward he repeatedly reported various acts of discrimination to the administration including the interference with his performing his job and the undermining of his authority. 14. During his employment, he witnessed other employees of color being terminated including those on his staff. 15 Dr. Saffari had developed a detailed enrollment plan which President Potter dismissed stating he wanted a new plan. 16. A committee was formed to draft the new plan. In September, a few months before the committee was to present the new plan President Potter disbanded the committee and terminated Dr. Saffari. 17. In September of 2011, Dr. Saffari was again instructed by the Provost that he could not share enrollment figures with the faculty who wanted the information’s so that they could address any problems. 18. After Dr. Saffari was directed not to release these figures and he raised the issue of the effect this would have on the faculty he was terminated and false enrollment statistics were presented to the public. Count I National Origin, Color, and Religious Discrimination 3 CASE 0:13-cv-00030-MJD-LIB Document 1 Filed 01/03/13 Page 4 of 7 19.1 through 18 are realleged and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth. 20. During the course of his employment and continuing to his termination on September 10, 2012. Defendant St. Cloud State has discriminated against the Plaintiff on the basis of his national origin, color and religion in the terms and conditions of his employment. The unequal treatment has included among other things removal of job duties, refusal to establish a job description, direction to withhold enrollment information and non-retention and interference with the ability to do his job and the undermining of his authority. 21. Plaintiff has repeatedly reported this discrimination to agents of Defendant SCSU. 22. That based on the conduct and actions of the defendants described above, defendants have violated Minn. Stat. §363A.08, subd. 2(c). 23. That based on the conduct and actions of the defendants described above, defendants have violated Title VII. 24. As a direct and proximate result of the illegal acts on the part of defendants, as described above, Plaintiff Saffari has suffered and will in the future suffer economic and emotional injuries, including loss of wages, pain, suffering, mental distress, humiliation, and damage to his reputation. Count II Civil Rights Violations Section 1983 25. Paragraphs 1-24 are realleged and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth. 26. Commencing at an unknown time in the past and continuing until September 20, 2012, Defendant Potter in his individual and representative capacities, acting under color of state law, deprived plaintiff the equal protection of the laws by subjecting the only Iranian and Muslim administrator at SCSU to a hostile, offensive and intimidating 4 CASE 0:13-cv-00030-MJD-LIB Document 1 Filed 01/03/13 Page 5 of 7 atmosphere on account of his national origin, color, and religion and by discriminating against the plaintiff with respect to retention and other terms and conditions of employment, by refusing to take prompt and effective remedial action to remedy such discrimination and by prohibiting the plaintiff’s free speech and retaliating against the plaintiff for exercising his right of free speech. 27. Such conduct by the defendants has violated U.S.C. §1983. 28. As a direct and proximate result of the illegal acts on the part of the defendants, as described above, Plaintiff Saffari has suffered and will in the future suffer economic and emotional injuries, including loss of wages, pain, suffering mental anguish, humiliation, and damage to his reputation. Count III Violation of the Minnesota Data Practices Act 29. Paragraphs 1-28 are realleged and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth. 30. Defendant Potter and other agents of SCSU State stated that they could not give students, faculty, and the public details about the termination of the plaintiff. 31. In violation of the Minnesota Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. § 13.01 et seq, Defendants Potter and other agents of SCSU did release private personnel data regarding the plaintiff. 32. As a result of this conduct plaintiff has sustained damages in the past and will sustain damages in the future. Count IV Defamation 33. Paragraphs 1-32 are realleged and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth. 34. After Plaintiff was terminated Defendant Potter and other agents of SCSU stated that they could not comment on the details of Plaintiff’s termination but they did confirm 5 CASE 0:13-cv-00030-MJD-LIB Document 1 Filed 01/03/13 Page 6 of 7 for the press and the public that “he was escorted from the building”, “that his termination was abrupt” and “that he was not allowed to communicate with anyone on his staff.” 35. The context of the statements implied that the plaintiff had engaged in wrong doing and conduct sufficient to terminate him in this fashion. 36.The defendants failed to provide missing information that would have clarified that there was not any wrongdoing. 37. The defendants’ statements and false innuendo were and continue to damage the plaintiff in his community and professional reputation and have and continue to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill and confidence in which plaintiff is held 38. As a direct and proximate result of these statements, plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer damages to his reputation, mental anguish and distress. 39. As a direct and proximate result of these statements, plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer economic damages including lost income and benefits. RELIEF REQUESTED WHEREFORE, plaintiff respectfully requests that this Court grant him judgment against the defendant as follows: 1. That the plaintiffs be awarded compensatory damages in an amount in excess of $75,000; and 2. For pre and post judgment interest; and 3. For punitive damages; and 4. For treble compensatory damages under the Minnesota Human Rights Act; and 5. For the costs and disbursements of suit, including an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs; and 6 CASE 0:13-cv-00030-MJD-LIB Document 1 Filed 01/03/13 Page 7 of 7 6. For such other and further relief as the court may be just and proper. Dated: January 3, 2013 JUDITH K.SCHERMER PLLC _/Judith K. Schermer Judith K. Schermer 10 S. Fifth Street, Suite 700 Minneapolis, MN 55402 (612) 332-1203 Atty. Reg. No. 183052 Attorney for Plaintiff 7
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