B.C. Ordered to Pay Damages for Unlawful Retaliation Towards Chemistry Professor

Unlawful Retaliation

Recently, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, (“MCAD”) found that Boston College (“B.C”.) unlawfully retaliated against a faculty member when it failed to integrate him into the school’s Chemistry Department after a medical leave.

Professor William H. Armstrong joined B.C.’s Chemistry Department as a faculty member in 1992. In 1997, Professor Armstrong began exhibiting signs of bipolar disorder. In 2002 he sent a series of emails, under an assumed name, to fellow chemists that described a rival coworker as “ruthless, vicious, manipulative, intimidating, vindictive, deceptive, subversive, mean-spirited, etc.” After a yearlong leave, psychiatric treatment, administration of psychological tests, and an evaluation by an independent medical examiner, Professor Armstrong returned to B.C. in 2003.

Prior to returning, he entered into a series of agreements with B.C. that laid out the terms by which he could return to his faculty position. In that agreement, B.C. agreed to accept Professor Armstrong back into the Chemistry Department despite the incidents in 2002. Unfortunately, over the subsequent years, Professor Armstrong was ostracized by fellow faculty members: faculty heads banned him from faculty meetings, school officials packed up and moved his office from the chemistry building to another location, and the faculty member which he insulted in his 2002 e-mails, refused to become faculty chair unless Professor Armstrong resign or be fired.

A B.C. faculty grievance committee agreed that Professor Armstrong was being mistreated and concluded that the Chemistry Department should reintegrate Professor Armstrong back into the Department. Against the advice of the Committee, B.C. failed to follow the recommendations.

The MCAD agreed with the Committee and Professor Armstrong. The MCAD found that because B.C. had agreed to reintegrate him into campus and into his position as a Professor of Chemistry, but utterly failed to do so, it violated its obligations to Professor Armstrong. B.C. was ordered to pay Professor Armstrong $125,000 in emotional distress damages as well as the pay differential between his then current position and the next lowest paid tenured associate professor of Chemistry.

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