Whistleblower Lawsuit Costs Globe University Nearly $1M
A Minnesota judge has ruled that Globe University must pay almost $600,000 in a case brought by ex-dean Heidi Weber, on top of the $395,000 she received from the for-profit school as the result of an August lawsuit.
Weber sued the Woodbury-based school for wrongful termination in April 2012, alleging that the university fired her in 2011—from her role as dean of the medical assistant program—for exposing the school’s unethical practices.
The former dean accused Globe of using unethical tactics and inaccurate statistics about job salaries and placement rates in order to manipulate and deceive postsecondary students.
In August, a Washington County jury ordered Globe to pay Weber almost $400,000 in damages—$205,000 for lost wages and $190,000 for emotional distress.
At the time, Globe’s lawyer reportedly said the school would seek an appeal, that it denied allegations of fraud, and that Weber was fired because of her job performance and because her employees and peers had lost trust in her.
The most recent ruling, which was handed down late last week, called for Globe to pay an additional $500,000 for attorneys’ fees and related costs, as well as at least $70,000 in what Weber’s representation called “pre-judgment interest charges,” which would bring Globe’s total bill up to almost $1 million.
Globe University’s Director of Media Relations Naomi McDonald e-mailed Twin Cities Business the following statement Thursday, regarding the most recent ruling:
“We were hopeful the judge would correct the mistakes made in the original jury decision. We remain convinced Mrs. Weber is not a whistleblower under Minnesota law, and are considering our option for appeal.”
The school had requested a new trial, arguing that the jury awarded punitive damages even though it was not a punitive damages case, but the district court has now denied the motion.
In the order, the judge wrote that the $395,000 award was “within the compensatory damages sought by the plaintiff, and does not reflect an indication of a punitive damages supplement.” The judge also denied a motion that claimed the amount of the jury award was “excessive.”
Weber was represented by Minneapolis-based law firm Halunen & Associates.
“Justice was upheld,” Clayton Halunen, an attorney with Halunen & Associates, said in a statement. “The judge affirmed the jury’s conclusion that our client was fired for doing the right thing by standing up against illegal advertising and recruiting practices. I don’t know what more we could ask for.”
Halunen & Associates also represented a group a students that followed Weber’s footsteps and sued Globe for misleading them about its accreditation and post-graduation prospects, in October.
According to court documents, the students alleged that the school’s advertisements and promotional materials contain “misleading, unfair, deceptive, false, and fraudulent statements and omissions intended to induce postsecondary students to enroll in their schools.”
The students’ case is still pending.
Globe University, along with its sister school Minnesota School of Business, serves more than 11,000 students across campuses in five states—including 11 in Minnesota—and online.