Fired UW-La Crosse dispatcher wants $250,000 settlement after being reinstated

Fired for what the dispatcher said was her political opinion, she was shortly reinstated after her termination

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A UW-La Crosse dispatcher was fired and reinstated to her position and now wants $250,000 settlement. On Feb. 1, Kimberly Dearman expressed her support for President Trump and his travel ban to a student employee, leading to a filed complaint and an investigation.

A fired UW-La Crosse dispatcher’s lawyer is demanding $250,000 from the UW System, according to La Crosse’s Chancellor Joe Gow, after the dispatcher was reinstated to her position following the discovery of an error in the firing procedure.

The announcement came just days after the university reinstated Kimberly Dearman, who was fired over comments she made to a student employee about President Trump’s travel ban. Dearman believes she was fired for her political beliefs.

According to La Crosse’s investigation report, on Feb. 1, a new student dispatch hire began her first day of work under the supervision of Dearman. Both received an email from Gow that apologized for a previous email from the university perceived as La Crosse taking a political stance on Trump’s travel ban.

Dearman and the student discussed the apology email from Gow. According to the complaint, Dearman said Gow deserved the backlash from the students and proceeded to express her approval of Trump’s travel ban, stating, people who “don’t belong here” should leave.

The student employee, who is a person of color, provided Dearman with an explanation as to why some people were upset over the travel ban, which Dearman agreed with. The complaint notes Dearman continued to tell the student she didn’t believe immigrants belonged before telling the employee “no offense to you.”

The student sent an email to UW-La Crosse Police Sgt. Jordan Schaller, informing him of the incident and resigned from her position. An investigation into the matter was launched, and on March 13, Dearman received a letter from the university notifying her of her termination.

According to the termination letter, Dearman was in violation of two workplace expectations: “threatening or abusive language,” and “conduct unbecoming of a university employee.”

The following Wednesday, La Crosse officials reinstated Dearman to dispatch on the advice of UW System attorneys who discovered an error in the firing process. Now, Lee Fehr, Dearman’s lawyer, is requesting a $250,000 settlement from La Crosse for Dearman.

When inquired about the demanded settlement from Fehr, Gow responded in an email,

“Due to a procedural error the employee has been reinstated to her position. Therefore, we consider this matter to be resolved, and I have no additional comments to make.”

Fehr told the La Crosse Tribune he believes public opinion will sway in their favor for the settlement.

“The public is really behind my client,” Fehr told the Tribune. “They are offended by what the university is doing.”

Gow told the Tribune the University will not be complying with the demand and stated Fehr is just looking for publicity.

UW-Eau Claire College Republicans Chair Mitchel Orlovsky believes both Dearman and the student are at fault for the incident because Dearman initiated the conversation and the student inquired for more information.

“Ultimately, that supervisor needs to know, though, that when you’re discussing these kinds of things with students, you can’t just bring this up on a whim,” Orlovsky said.

Eau Claire College Democrats Vice Chair Reed White said Dearman’s termination may have been “reactionary” and the incident should have been a moment for learning as the student employee said in the complaint. However, because he doesn’t believe she was fired for her political beliefs, he disagrees with her settlement request.

“The reason that she was fired was because she made those racially charged comments towards a subordinate, which is not allowed in their code of conduct,” White said. “So I wouldn’t say she’s being punished for her political beliefs so much as she’s being punished for breaking the rules.”

According to the investigation report, Dearman was in a “Performance Improvement Plan” process for previous disciplinary action, but no further information was provided.