Former WSU employee sues over termination

Allegations include discrimination, unfair investigation by OEO

IAN SMAY, Evergreen reporter

A lawsuit filed by former WSU employee Tony Rogers alleges discrimination and an unfair investigation carried out by university officials and the school’s Office for Equal Opportunity that led to his firing.

Rogers, who stated in court documents that he was an employee with the university for 27 years, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho in Coeur d’Alene on Oct. 26.

The suit claimed an investigation carried out by the OEO and Rogers’ eventual termination was “gender biased, religiously biased, retaliatory and included gross violations of due process,” according to court documents. In addition to asking for his letter of termination and all of the documents related to the OEO investigation to be destroyed, Rogers is also seeking over $1 million in damages for “lost compensation, benefits and calculated retirement benefits and punitive damages.”

He claimed in the suit that Terry Boston, WSU associate vice president for finance and operations and one of Rogers’ superiors, “heavily influenced” the process that led to his firing, according to court documents.

He also stated in the suit that Kimberly Anderson, who is the OEO’s executive director for compliance, and OEO Assistant Director Holly Ashkannejhad failed to provide a fair process during the investigation.

WSU could not be immediately reached for comment. Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communications, has previously said the university does not comment on pending litigation.

The investigation that led to Rogers’ firing “revolved around religious issues and false allegations involving dating” between him, Shanna Rogers and Randi Aston, two female coworkers.

Rogers and Ms. Rogers, who are not related in any way, were coworkers who had begun a friendship based around their faith, according to court documents. Rogers stated in the filing that he did not have or ask to have a romantic relationship with either woman.

Both Rogers and Ms. Rogers began talking via Facebook in April 2017, in which Rogers claims Ms. Rogers asked him on multiple occasions to pray with her, a request he said could only happen if it was in a group due to her being a married woman, according to court documents.

While the two had also talked about personal issues, Rogers stated in his filing he had realized during the week of June 7, 2017 that Ms. Rogers seemed upset with him and had deleted him from her Facebook. He stated she then accused him of wanting to date her even though she was married, a claim which he denied. She then accused him of being interested in Aston.

Rogers also claimed Ashkannejhad had altered and made false statements, willfully failed to investigate his responses to the claims, asked biased questions and withheld evidence from the investigation, according to court documents. He accused Anderson of failing to provide necessary oversight in the OEO investigation.

In his response to the allegations against him, Rogers stated in the lawsuit he provided evidence showing Ms. Rogers to be dishonest, including previous alleged false accusations against men and screenshots showing she had reached out to him to start conversations.

Boston was accused of making “false and belittling” statements in his termination notice to Tony Rogers, according to court documents. He also accused Boston of taking “the word of Ms. Rogers over Mr. Rogers and stated public records were not relevant to how Mr. Rogers was supposed to treat her.”