By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
A white, straight, Christian male who is suing the University of Wyoming for alleged discrimination doesn’t have enough facts to support his case, the university claims.
The University of Wyoming in a Monday filing urged Judge Nancy Freudenthal of the U.S. District Court for Wyoming to dismiss the lawsuit of former employee Jeffrey Lynn Wilkins, who claims the university discriminated against him for being a white, straight, Christian male.
Wilkins in September filed a legal complaint against the university; its president; its interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion; its vice president for research and economic development; and its director of the Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center.
He alleges they and the college took part in denying him promotion, and that the college ultimately fired him because of his social class and because he opposed undergoing critical race theory training.
In a counterargument filed in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming on Monday, the university disputes the claims, saying Wilkins’ lawsuit is without merit. The college asks Freudenthal to dismiss the case based on the following claims:
Wilkins made duplicative claims against both the University and its employees.
Wilkins can’t sue individuals under the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act.
The university can’t be sued by a person living in another state, because the university as an entity of Wyoming is exempted from such action by the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (as Wilkins now lives in South Dakota).
The University violating its own regulation is not grounds for a lawsuit.
Wilkins should have pursued further “administrative remedies” before launching the lawsuit.
The University’s counter-argument also claims that for a person to claim “reverse-discrimination,” or discrimination despite not being part of a “historically disfavored group,” that person must have a stronger argument than would an ethnic or social minority alleging discrimination.
“In reverse discrimination claims, where the plaintiff is not a member of a historically or socially disfavored group, the plaintiff must do more to establish a prima facie (obvious on the first impression) case,” the University’s argument reads.
It continues, alleging that Wilkins didn’t provide factual evidence of discrimination, didn’t characterize the University as an “unusual employer” with a pattern of oppressing people in social-class majorities and didn’t adequately demonstrate that he would have been promoted and could have dodged being fired if he hadn’t been a white, straight, Christian male.
Check A Box
Wilkins traced his allegations of discrimination to when a superior encouraged him to use his degenerative eye condition to “find a way to check a box.” He took it to mean that he’d be treated better if he had a known disability.
This statement by a female superior, Wilkins alleges, was proof that he could not succeed at the university because of his social status.
The college in its counterargument says that statement wasn’t enough to prove discrimination, and was Wilkins’ “imaginative interpretation … (and) nothing more than speculation.”
“At most the statement is circumstantial evidence,” added the university, noting that the woman who said those words to Wilkins is not among those who allegedly discriminated against him.
Critical Race Theory
Wilkins’ suit requests damages of $874,619, plus attorney and court fees.
Wilkins said in his legal complaint that after graduating from the university’s law school, he started working part-time for the college’s research product center in 2017.
He alleges that his initial superior was impressed with him and his abilities, but that for three of the next four years, he endured discrimination, cuts in his work schedule, was denied opportunities for promotion and ultimately was terminated. The college fired him in 2021.
UW hired a chief diversity officer who required Wilkins in October 2019 to take a diversity training course “steeped in critical race theory,” the suit claims.
By the end of the course Wilkins did not agree with critical race theory. He gave feedback stating that he opposes the theory because it is the “antithesis of Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s teachings” because it “overtly promotes the evaluation of skin color over the content of one’s character.”
He told the college critical race theory is “blatantly racist, sexist and bigoted.” His feedback became part of his permanent employment record at the college, the suit says.
Wilkins asserts that a female colleague was promoted over him despite their equal qualifications, and he was fired the day after she took the position “with no explanation.”