The Iowa Court of Appeals has waded into a long-running dispute between Iowa State University and a former employee. Dennis Smith had a $70,000 a year job in the communications and marketing department for ISU’s Engineering College.
A jury awarded Smith half a million dollars for the emotional distress inflicted on him by his ISU supervisors. Plus the jury said Smith was entitled to $784,000 because he reported a supervisor who was improperly billing an outside group for work being done by Smith and others in the department.
Lawyers for Iowa State called the jury award “flagrantly excessive.” The Court of Appeals concluded Smith was the victim of “an ongoing pattern of harassment by several supervisors” and upheld the jury’s $500,000 award for emotional distress.
But the appeals court set aside the other, $784,000 jury award, saying there’s no proof the actions taken against Smith were in retaliation for blowing the whistle on his supervisor. Lawyers for Smith and the university are reviewing the appeals court ruling and have the option to appeal it to the Iowa Supreme Court.