• July 27, 2012

After months of breathless anticipation, we now have Mr. Brodkorb’s Complaint against the Minnesota Senate and Cal Ludeman in hand.   Unfortunately, there are no salacious details, and precious little that has not already appeared in the press.  Nonetheless, it’s an interesting document for your humble blogger to consider.

The 26-page complaint includes three claims spread out over ten separate counts.  The first is for gender discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the St. Paul Code Ordinance, Title VII, and Section 1983.  The essential claim is that Brodkorp was fired from his job for having an intimate relationship with a female legislator (Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch), while “similarly situated female employees, from both political parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators.”  Alas, the male legislators are not identified.

The second claim is for defamation, based on Secretary of State Ludeman’s claims in a press release and a conversation with a reporter that Brodkorb was trying to “blackmail” the Senate and “extort” a payment.  According to the Brodkorb’s lawyers:  “Stating that a person is extorting or blackmailing another person is a criminal act and defamation per se.”

The third claim is for invasion of privacy: Ludeman is accused of leaking the fact that Brodkorb’s application for unemployment compensation had been denied in violation of the confidentiality provisions found in the statute.

Here is how I handicap the claims:  as to the gender discrimination, even if his underlying assertion that female staffers were not fired for fooling around with male legislators is true (and how many of us would be surprised if it were), Brodkorb is going to have a hard time showing that those females were really “similarly situated” to him.  Most judges will instinctively feel that anti-discrimination laws were probably not designed to protect employees caught in flagrante delicto with the boss, regardless of their genders, and find some way to distinguish his situation.

Defamation: while hardly an expert, it strikes me that Ludeman’s claims were more opinion than fact, and therefore probably protected.  There are probably some immunity issues here as well.

Invasion of Privacy:  If Brodkorb can prove that Ludeman was the leaker, then he probably has a claim, but (a) how likely is it that the newspaper reporter will roll on Ludeman, and (b) what damages will he be able to prove?  Expect a First Amendment/Freedom of the Press sideshow here.

Bottom line: this one will be settled for a reasonable amount before any depositions are taken so that the Senate can avoid any embarrassing allegations about particular legislators.


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