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Four former OU employees sue Board of Regents over breached promise of lifetime email access

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Evans Hall (copy)

Evans Hall Oct. 31.

Four retired OU employees filed a class-action lawsuit against OU’s Board of Regents Friday for ending retirees’ lifetime access to their OU email addresses and are seeking over $10,000 in civil relief. 

According to the petition on Oklahoma State Courts Network, the plaintiffs allege that OU breached its promise that retirees would have lifetime access to their OU email account. 

“Unfortunately, and in breach of the University of Oklahoma’s promise to its retirees, plaintiffs and the class have been advised that they will soon no longer have access to their existing OU email addresses, and that the promised lifetime benefit will be terminated unilaterally,” according to the petition. 

In October, an OU IT announcement said ou.edu email addresses would be decommissioned to save money and enable increased internet security, and alumni could create alumni.ou.edu email addresses instead.

According to the suit’s petition, the four plaintiffs and retired OU employees who are representing the class are: Andrew Horton, retired, tenured and endowed professor of OU film and media studies; Ginger Wetz, retired director of finance from the OU College of Law; Neil Suneson, retired staff member and adjunct professor of OU’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy; and Cindy Cash, who retired from OU’s Office of the Provost and as the director of academic personnel records and financial operations. 

Scott Poynter, partner in Poynter Tucker association of law firms who filed the petition, said the plaintiffs have significant information located directly in their email accounts.

“Each of the clients have had their ou.edu email addresses for a long time, their calendars, their contacts, their email, obviously,” Poynter said. “Almost everything they have electronically is tied to that email address. So everything would have to be redone for them, and transitioned over to some other email.” 

Poynter said the plaintiffs were promised access to the email accounts as a benefit within their retirement package, and they want to keep using their accounts.

“Each (client) wanted to pursue this and (they’ve) been trying to work with the administration to basically not end this life-long benefit that they were supposed to have,” Poynter said, “and that’s been unsuccessful. So they don’t really see another avenue other than to try to pursue this avenue, which is sort of a last resort for them.” 

Around April, OU informed the plaintiffs and class that it was “unilaterally reneging on its promise,” according to the petition, and that OU was “terminating the use of and access to retirees’ ou.edu email addresses” and they would be “permanently eliminated on January 22, 2020.” 

According to the petition, the plaintiffs allege that OU’s breach of its promise will cause “immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage” to retirees.

The plaintiffs are asking for a judgment against OU, a temporary order that requires OU to let them keep their email addresses until the case is over, a permanent order that requires OU to let them keep their email addresses for their lifetimes, and “all other relief to which plaintiffs and the class are entitled or that the court deems just and proper,” according to the petition.

The university declined to comment on the lawsuit because it has not been served yet, stated Kesha Keith, director of OU media relations, in an email to The Daily.

“Once received, we will evaluate and respond as is appropriate,” Keith wrote in the email.

A hearing is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Dec. 13 before Cleveland County Judge Michael Tupper, according to OSCN.

Scott Kirker contributed to this report.

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