WASHINGTON (CN) – A former Howard University dean cannot dismiss claims that her discrimination against a HIV-positive colleague cost the university a $253,000 settlement, a federal judge ruled.
Former assistant dean Daniel Goodwin successfully sued the school for discrimination with claims that he faced harassment when Belinda Watkins, the former dean for student life and activities, discovered his HIV-positive status.
Urging the university against renewing Goodwin’s contract, Watkins allegedly listed bogus indiscretions, such as excessive socializing, drinking, rumor-mongering and disrespectful behavior.
After losing his contract and suing Howard, Goodwin received a settlement of $253,000 and attorneys’ fees, prompting Howard to sue Watkins for fraud.
The complaint says Watkins, a 30-year employee at Howard, allegedly discovered that Goodwin was HIV positive from administrative assistant Paulette Porter.
Goodwin had been hospitalized after a stroke and allegedly told Porter when she came to visit him.
Assuming that Goodwin was gay, Porter began harassing him at work, and Watkins refused to stop it, according to the complaint.
“Indeed, Watkins made inappropriate statements about Goodwin and about male students who met with Goodwin which led students to believe that Goodwin suffered from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,” according to the court’s summary of those claims.
Watkins also allegedly refused to accommodate Goodwin by denying his request to change his office hours.
“Howard would not have approved Watkins’ recommendation to not renew Goodwin’s contract had it been aware that Goodwin suffered from the HIV infection, or that Watkins had denied Goodwin’s request for an accommodation,” the court’s summary continues.
U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts refused to dismiss last week, allowing Howard to advance four counts of fraud and equitable indemnity.
“While the counts appear to overlap somewhat, the complaint alleges plausible causes of action of fraud and misrepresentation, and alleges the elements of fraud with sufficient particularity to survive Watkins’ motion,” Roberts wrote.