University Official Fired for Discriminating Against Police Chief Who Voted for Trump

The Dickinson Press (Adam Kurtz) reported in September, and The College Fix (Christian Schneider) just publicized it yesterday:

University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost has fired one of the two administrators former UND Police Chief Eric Plummer claimed discriminated against him on the basis of his political beliefs….

Plummer left his job in February shortly after filing complaints against Halgren and Gerhardt for discrimination and creating a hostile working environment over a period of four years, dating back to a conversation he had with Halgren in 2016.

Plummer stated that the conversation took place at Northside Cafe. Halgren then asked Plummer who he had voted for during the 2016 Presidential election. Plummer claimed that the question made him uncomfortable and he replied by saying that he had voted for Donald Trump.

Plumber claimed that Gerhardt, Halgren and Plummer changed their attitudes towards him. Plummer claimed that Halgren cancelled regular breakfast meetings scheduled with him which he said harmed his relationship with UND student affairs. Plummer claimed that their professional relationship became worse and that he was not allowed to participate in an online meeting moderator by Gerhardt. This led to him having to deal with an ever more confrontational work environment.

An administrative judge who dealt with the complaint in August found that Halgren had discriminated against Plummer based on his political views. Hope Hogan found the same judge that Gerhardt had not harassed Plummer and created a hostile environment for him to work.

You can view a copy Administrative Law Judge Hope Hogan’s conclusions.

The First Amendment prohibits government employees from being fired because of their political affiliation. This would also include voting. There is an exception for certain positions for which political affiliation is seen as a legitimate criterion—think chiefs of staff for elected officials, or cabinet officers or their top deputies—but I doubt that it would apply to a police chief at a university.

North Dakota makes it illegal to interfere with election results by using economic coercion.[i]njure[]Intimidate[]Or, interfere[]With another person because they are or have been voting on any issue or candidate.” It would also apply to firing an individual based on his vote. You can ask if the law applies to discrimination when assigning job duties or opportunities in your organization. Nearly every state has some laws protecting employees from retaliation by private or public employers based on their voting.

North Dakota’s state law forbids all government and private employers from firing employees on the basis of off-duty working-hours “lawful activities,” including voting or other political activity.

[No employer may discriminate against an employee or applicant] because of … participation in a lawful activity that is off the employer’s premises and that takes place during nonworking hours

[a] [unless that participation is] in direct conflict with the essential business-related  interests of the employer … [or]

[b]A bona fide occupational qualification is one that gives rise to work activities. It does not apply to all employees.