University agrees to $300K settlement in wrongful termination lawsuit from former employee
The University of Michigan has agreed to a $300,000 settlement after former employee, Amy J. Wang, claimed she was wrongfully terminated by the school. Through an attorney, the University signed the settlement on Dec. 3, which was later released to MLive after a public records request.
According to the lawsuit, associate vice president of finance Nancy Hobbs, who was Wang’s boss, had asked Wang to “fraudulently misrepresent” the role of another employee to federal immigration officials. Wang’s complaint arose because the employee, who was working at the University through a North American Free Trade Agreement program allowing temporary work visas, was in a permanent managerial role despite restrictions in the program’s regulations prohibiting such a position.
Wang claimed when she refused to lie about the employee’s status she was asked by Hobbs to resign with the threat of being fired if she did not comply. As a result, the subject was moved to a disciplinary review conference where Wang was fired for "failing to meet expectations" on July 13.
However, the University did not admit any liability in the settlement, and claimed they had corrected the employee’s visa issue without Wang’s involvement. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald responded to Wang’s allegations.
"The University of Michigan categorically denies the allegation that Wang was ever asked to lie," Fitzgerald said in an email to The Daily. "The university also denies that Wang was a ‘whistleblower’ because the university, on its own, discovered the visa issues with another employee and took action to correct that situation independent of Wang.”
Hobbs retired from the University in late 2018.
The University offered Wang $219,000 in lost wages and damages and $81,000 in legal fees. Wang agreed to never work for the University again and eliminated any new claims related to her termination. According to the agreement, the University also agreed to to let Wang's record indicated she had voluntarily resigned.
"U-M agrees to characterize Wang's termination as a resignation and expunge the personnel file of any documents reflecting she was fired." The agreement goes on to state, "Wang and U-M agree that they will keep this Agreement confidential and will not disclose any information to any third party."
Law professor J.J. Prescott, whose research interests include employment law and settlement, discussed the reasoning behind why the University may have chosen to agree to a settlement even though they did not claim any sort of liability for the situation.
"Parties often settle to reduce risk and lower costs" Prescott said. "Going to trail costs is expensive and time consuming, and there is always the uncertainty about the trial outcome. Even if you are very confident you will win, you can never be sure, so settlement can make sense for both parties."
Wang and her lawyer from Gasiorek, Morgan, Greco, McCauley and Kotzian P.C. could not be reached for comment.