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New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

Dates
Retaliation; Faculty & Staff; Conflicts of Interest; Retaliation; Sex Discrimination; Ethics; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Simpson v. Vanderbilt Univ. (6th Cir. May 22, 2017)

Order affirming the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Vanderbilt University. Plaintiff, a former faculty member at Vanderbilt's School of Medicine, was terminated for founding and running a private consulting corporation while continuing to work at Vanderbilt in violation of the University’s conflict-of-interest policy. She filed a sex discrimination suit against the University, claiming that male employees who engaged in outside consulting were not terminated, that Vanderbilt only took issue with her consultation work after she complained of gender discrimination, and that the University’s investigation and subsequent termination of her employment were retaliatory. The district court granted summary judgment to Vanderbilt on Plaintiff’s claims for failure to identify a similarly-situated male colleague and failure to make a prima facie showing of sex discrimination. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed.  

5/23/2017
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Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Retaliation; Retaliation

Canady v. Union 1199 (W.D.N.Y. May 22, 2017)

Decision and Order granting Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, an African American man, worked as a support assistant at the University of Rochester. His period of employment was “peppered with disciplinary warnings and periodic meetings” with supervisors concerning inappropriate workplace behavior. After the University terminated him for engaging in a verbal altercation with a coworker, Plaintiff’s union engaged in an arbitration process on his behalf that ended in Plaintiff being reinstated upon completing an anger management program. Subsequently, Plaintiff was suspended for further misbehavior and ultimately transferred to a new position at the same rate of pay. Plaintiff filed several suits against the University and the Union, alleging that Defendants subjected him to race-based discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII. The court found that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima face case of discrimination because he offered no evidence by which a reasonable factfinder could conclude that he was subject to adverse employment actions based on his race. 

5/23/2017
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Employment; Immigration & International Activities; Foreign Students

State Department Notice of Information Collection: Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants (May 4, 2017)

Notice published by the State Department announcing that it has submitted an emergency information collection request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding visa applicants. The Department is proposing to collect certain information from immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants who have been identified as warranting additional scrutiny based on their links to terrorism and other national security concerns. This information includes travel, address, and employment history; names of certain family members; countries from which they have been issued passports; social media platform handles; and phone and email addresses. Six higher education associations have submitted comments on these proposed supplemental questions to explain the negative consequences that these additional criteria would have for postsecondary institutions. 

5/22/2017
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Retaliation; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Faculty & Staff; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Liu v. Univ. of Miami Sch. of Medicine (11th Cir. May 19, 2017)

Per curiam Opinion affirming the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the University of Miami School of Medicine (UM). Appellant, an Asian female and Chinese native, was demoted from a tenure-track position and later terminated from her research-track position at the University due to poor performance. She filed suit against UM alleging race, national origin, and sex discrimination claims under Title VII and Section 1981, along with retaliation claims under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court correctly concluded that Appellant had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under Title VII because she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge well beyond the 365-day time limit. Additionally, although there is no similar exhaustion requirement for Section 1981, the court found that the University provided legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for terminating Appellant, and that Appellant either admitted to her poor performance or failed to provide evidence of a potential discriminatory motive. Further, Appellant failed to make a prima facie showing of FMLA retaliation because she requested leave after UM issued her a written notice of termination.  

5/22/2017
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Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Age Discrimination

Dayton v. Oakton Community College (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Collective and Class Certification. After Oakton Community College announced that it would no longer employ annuitants of the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) pension plan, a former part-time faculty member sued Oakton and several administrators on behalf of himself and a proposed class of similarly-situated, part-time faculty, alleging that the new policy violated the ADEA and other federal and state laws. The court concluded that the putative class members shared “sufficiently similar factual and employment settings to justify a collective action” based on the fact that Oakton’s decision was made on a college-wide basis, not an individual faculty member’s job performance. Therefore, the court reasoned, the issues of whether the new policy had a disparate impact on older faculty members and whether it violated the ADEA are common to each class member’s claims. The court further ruled that the proposed class met all the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. 

5/19/2017
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Retaliation; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Faculty & Staff; Retaliation; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Cannon v. Univ. of Tenn. (E.D. Tenn. May 17, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s (UTK) Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, who worked for Service Aide UTK, was diagnosed with Moersch-Wltman Syndrome, a rare disease characterized by progressive muscle stiffness and spasms. He took medical leave for his condition and for a subsequent injury. However, after he was repeatedly reprimanded and ultimately terminated for attendance issues, he filed suit against the University claiming disability discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) interference and retaliation. The court concluded that UTK had offered sufficient evidence to support its conclusion that—regardless of whether Plaintiff could not complete his job with accommodations or simply refused to do his job—he did not perform his duties, and therefore that the University’s termination decision was unrelated to Plaintiff’s use of FMLA leave, his medical condition, or his request for accommodation. 

5/19/2017
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Disability Discrimination

Jenkins v. Arkansas State University (W.D. Ark. May 16, 2017)

Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss. Plaintiff was employed at Arkansas State University (ASU) when she and her supervisor were interviewed by a newspaper reporter. The reporter later wrote an article featuring Plaintiff and mentioning that she has “severe” Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Plaintiff filed a defamation suit claiming that her supervisor violated her privacy rights when she revealed Plaintiff’s disability to the reporter. She also claimed that she was subjected to unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by her employer due to her alleged disability. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim because Plaintiff filed her disability claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) eleven months after the last act of alleged discrimination took place, which exceeded the relevant limitation period. It also dismissed Plaintiff’s defamation claim against her supervisor for failure to allege facts indicating that the allegedly defamatory statement is false.  

5/18/2017
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Foreign Students; Equal Protection; Immigration & International Activities; Constitutional Issues

Estrada v. Becker (N.D. Ga. May 15, 2017)

Opinion and Order denying Defendants’ Motion to Stay, granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the First Amendment Complaint, and denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss as moot. Plaintiffs consist of noncitizen graduates of Georgia high schools who immigrated illegally to the United States as children and received deferred action status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. They filed suit against the members of the Georgia Board of Regents and the presidents of five state postsecondary institutions after the Board adopted a policy prohibiting those not lawfully present in the United States from being admitted to selective public universities. After denying Defendants’ Motion to Stay pending the outcome of a state court proceeding involving similar issues, it granted Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim. The court reasoned that Plaintiffs are not similarly situated to other noncitizens eligible for admission for the purpose of an equal protection analysis because DACA is not a statute but rather a “a creature of prosecutorial discretion,” and therefore Plaintiffs are not “lawfully present” in the United States. 

5/16/2017
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