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UMD investigates two new complaints against Raymond

A prominent Duluth business owner and University of Minnesota Duluth employee who was disciplined three years after the school found he sexually harassed two students is again being investigated by the school following two new complaints against ...

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A prominent Duluth business owner and University of Minnesota Duluth employee who was disciplined three years after the school found he sexually harassed two students is again being investigated by the school following two new complaints against him, records obtained by the News Tribune show.

Records also show that UMD agreed to pay a student and her attorney $30,000 in April after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights found probable cause that she was sexually harassed in 2009 by Rod Raymond, a fitness instructor at the university. The records also show that UMD discriminated against the student when Raymond allegedly retaliated against her after she reported the claimed harassment.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found no probable cause to investigate separate charges by Raymond that UMD sexually discriminated against him. The department dismissed his complaint in August.

Raymond co-owns Fitger's Brewhouse, Burrito Union, the Red Star Lounge and Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery, and on Oct. 5 he bought Endion Station in Canal Park for $300,000 with business partner Tim Nelson. He has been a UMD employee and fitness instructor since 1989 and is currently the school's Fitness and Wellness coordinator. However, he has been on unpaid leave at his own request since November 2011, school human resources director Judith Karon said.

Karon said she had no other comment on Raymond's employment status due to the pending investigation.

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"Any other information you'd have to get from Rod," she said.

Raymond declined to comment for this article.

His attorney, Lindsay R.M. Jones, who is based in Atlanta, issued a statement calling the sexual harassment allegations against Raymond frivolous. Jones said his client had to take an unpaid leave because of a group of UMD employees who "took it upon themselves as self-appointed vigilantes to seek to force Mr. Raymond to quit or cause the University to terminate his employment out of embarrassment, by engaging in a pattern and practice of intimidation and a public smear campaign with the malicious intent of undermining Mr. Raymond's reputation in the community, so as to render his continued employment with the University untenable."

In the statement, Jones said his client will file a federal lawsuit against UMD to "seek readdress (sic) from the conduct of the unchecked, rogue group of employees."

Under the state's data practice act, the university cannot say when the two new complaints were filed or why Raymond is being investigated until the investigation is complete.

Raymond, who was the one-time personal trainer to former UMD Chancellor Kathryn Martin, has been disciplined twice by the school -- once for sexual harassment and once for misusing the school's e-mail and data system to solicit clients for his businesses and then lying about it, records show.

Earlier complaints

The News Tribune previously reported that in May 2009, two student employees of Raymond's accused him of sexually harassing them on several occasions. One student reported that Raymond allegedly told her he was "very attracted to her," tickled her stomach and pulled her hand toward his crotch, according to a report written by the school's director of the Office of Equal Opportunity at the time.

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After one student reported the alleged harassment to the school's Office of Equal Opportunity, the student, in her complaint to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, accused Raymond of coming into a class she was teaching and staring at her for about 20 minutes "with a blank, cold look on his face."

The next week, Raymond allegedly approached the student and told her she had "taken me down a notch. You called me out. I need to go to some seminars and workshops and make some changes. You called me out," according to her complaint to the Human Rights Department.

Records show that Raymond denied the allegations to the school's Office of Equal Opportunity.

The equal opportunity office director at that time concluded in her report that Raymond had harassed the two students and recommended that he be fired.

"By not taking a strong stand against this behavior, we place UMD in a vulnerable position vis-a-vis a lawsuit with respect to sexual harassment," the office director wrote.

However, Raymond was allowed to keep his job. Among the disciplinary actions taken against him, Raymond was ordered not to supervise the students who had filed the complaints, attend sexual harassment training and keep his door open during meetings with young women.

One of the students who claimed harassment hired Lawrence Schaeffer, the attorney who litigated the sexual harassment case of female taconite miners made famous in the film "North Country." Schaeffer helped the student file a discrimination complaint against UMD with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, charging that the school didn't take the appropriate steps to protect her after she filed the harassment complaint.

After reviewing the allegations, the department found in December that probable cause existed to support that discrimination took place, that Raymond harassed the student and that the complaint by the student was leaked to Raymond.

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UMD denied that it had discriminated against the student, pointing out that the school investigated the complaint after it was made and took appropriate action against Raymond.

The school also pointed to its sexual harassment policies that say in part, "sexual harassment in any situation is reprehensible."

But the Minnesota Department of Human Rights said, "The mere existence of a sexual harassment policy is insufficient to satisfy an employer's burden of demonstrating that it exercised reasonable care in preventing sexual harassment."

As part of the settlement in that case, which was reached in April, UMD agreed to pay the student and her attorney $30,000, to re-examine its sexual harassment procedures, train employees in the school's recreational sports program on sexual harassment and to implement procedures to ensure students and staff who raise harassment complaints will not be subject to reprisal.

Raymond charges bias

In February 2012, Raymond filed his own sexual discrimination complaint against UMD with the Department of Human Rights, saying that since 2009 he was "continually subjected" to "a series of unmerited pretext investigations" including one on Feb. 13 "by which it has sought to intentionally publically malign (Raymond) through fomenting politically charged gender bias against him in the University community at (UMD) so as to isolate him and rendered (sic) his continued employment with the University of Minnesota untenable," according to the complaint.

He named numerous female administrators at the school in the complaint, including former chancellor Martin.

In December 2009, following an investigation by an interim vice chancellor, Raymond was suspended without pay for 10 days after it was found that he used the school's computer equipment and services to solicit clients for his personal businesses, and that he accessed confidential school client information for his personal use, according to a report written by the interim vice chancellor.

In his complaint to the Department of Human Rights, Raymond said Martin and other administrators should have known that the school's director of the Office of Equal Rights "harbored gender bias" against him, "by which she sought to discriminate against him on the basis of his sex, but allowed her to abuse and corrupt the investigatory authority by which (UMD) empowered her."

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigated Raymond's complaint and, in a memo issued Aug. 29, found that UMD had "legitimate reason to investigate (Raymond's) conduct" in connection with allegations of harassment and misuse of school computer equipment.

"After a thorough examination of (Raymond's) allegations ... the Department has determined that the respondent did not investigate or discipline (Raymond) because of his sex, but because of his conduct. There is no indication that the (UMD's) officials would have allowed similar behavior from female employees."

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