Court of Appeals reverses $3M verdict against MTSU

Judges say former worker didn’t show proof supervisor knew of his EEOC complaint

The Tennessee Court of Appeals this week reversed a Rutherford County Chancery Court opinion that would have awarded a former Middle Tennessee State University worker $3 million.

Jim Ferguson, an ex-maintenance worker, sued MTSU more than a decade ago for racial discrimination and other claims of employment discrimination. Ferguson was injured on the workplace and filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against MTSU while he was off work.

After he returned to work at MTSU, he filed a lawsuit in Rutherford County Chancery Court. Ferguson suffered another injury, according to court filings, then sued MTSU again for retaliating against him for his first complaint.

Ferguson claimed that his direct supervisor made him do work that fell outside of his medical restrictions after he filed the employment complaint and lawsuit. While a jury eventually tossed his discrimination claims, they awarded Ferguson $3 million on the retaliatory claim.

But the Tennessee Court of Appeals determined that Ferguson wasn't able to show proof that his supervisor knew of the legal claims. (Read the opinion here.) The court reversed the jury's decision and dismissed the case entirely.