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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
Government Relations

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) Round-up on Higher Education Act Reauthorization (Dec. 13, 2017)

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities weekly news “round-up” on the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. This week’s articles address the status of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization’s as it proceeds from committee to the House floor; the removal of an Obama-era rule on college credit hours; an op-ed by Rep. Brett Guthrie and Rep. Virginia Foxx, who each Chair the Committee on Education and the Workforce and who proposed reauthorizing the Higher Education Act; and the House Republicans’ push for a higher education overhaul in the new year. 

12/15/2017
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Endowments & Gifts; Tax; Government Relations; Authorizations & Regulations

Letter from Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Urging Congress to Oppose a Proposed Tax on Private College and University Endowments (Dec. 13, 2017)

Letter from a group of nearly thirty bipartisan lawmakers expressing strong opposition to a provision under consideration by Congress to tax private college and university endowments. In their view, the proposal wrongly equates colleges and universities to private foundations, opens a pathway for future increase and expansion of the endowment tax to public colleges and universities, and jeopardizes need-based financial aid for college students, while generating less than two-tenths of one percent of the revenue needed for the tax bill. The letter closes by urging Congress to remove the tax on private college and university endowments, or alternatively, to provide these institutions with a credit for the financial aid they grant. 

12/15/2017
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Government Relations; Authorizations & Regulations

Letter from Thirty-Eight Higher Education Associations to the House of Representatives on the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (PROSPER) (Dec. 11, 2017)

Letter from the American Council on Education and thirty-seven other higher education associations to the House of Representatives expressing concern with provisions in the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (PROSPER). The letter identifies provisions that would undermine students’ access to affordable education and would weaken the federal government’s ability to prevent abuse in the federal aid system. Among the Bill’s proposals, the letter identifies of particular concern the elimination of in-school interest subsidies for undergraduate students, the elimination of grants under the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, the elimination of loan forgiveness in student loan programs, and the lack of safeguards to prevent federal funds from reaching non-eligible institutions through their partnerships with Title IV participants. The letter notes that due to the accelerated timeframe of the bill, there is insufficient understanding of the legislation’s full impact. The letter closes by affirming the various associations’ readiness to work with the legislature “to reduce cost, increase accountability, and promote innovation.” 

12/15/2017
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Retaliation; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Sex Discrimination; Disability Discrimination; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Drummer v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (E.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting in part and denying in part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.  Plaintiff, a fifty-six year old African American man previously employed by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania alleged against Defendant claims of age, sex, and race discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII, and section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act; disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA); and interference and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Plaintiff cited three adverse employment actions in support of his claims: unequal pay between himself and other employees, Plaintiff’s placement in a performance improvement plan, and Plaintiff’s termination. The court found that only Plaintiff’s allegation of unequal pay could support his age, sex, and race discrimination claims. The court found that Plaintiff’s pleadings in support of his disability discrimination claim did not show that he could perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodations, nor did the pleadings establish a causal link between his disability and his termination. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s disability retaliation claim because Plaintiff did not establish that his activities were protected under the ADA. Last, the court found that at this stage in the proceedings, Plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation and interference claims could proceed, since Plaintiff plead that he had not been restored to the same or an equivalent position following his leave, and since the Defendant did not challenge that assertion. 

12/15/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Peppers v. Benedictine University, et al. (N.D. Ill. Dec. 12, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Individual Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and granting in part and denying in party Defendant Benedictine University’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, an African American male employee of Benedictine University (BU), brought against Defendants a hostile work environment claim under section 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, following aggressive and crude behaviors directed at Plaintiff by various BU employees over several years. Plaintiff also alleged that BU retaliated against him by terminating his employment shortly after he filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Individual Defendants in their official capacities because they were redundant to those brought against BU. The court further found that although Plaintiff endured aggressive language, amplified by an employee “yelling and wagging her finger in [Plaintiff’s] face,” the language and corresponding actions were not based on Plaintiff’s race or sex, nor were they so severe or pervasive as to create a hostile work environment. Finally, the court allowed Plaintiff’s retaliation claim to proceed because, Plaintiff was terminated a few months after filing an EEOC charge, and Plaintiff demonstrated a causal link between the two—both in temporal proximity and in Defendants’ act of posting a job listing that was substantially similar to Plaintiff’s position despite having cited a reduction in force as the reason for the termination.

12/14/2017
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Age Discrimination; Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Burton v. Miles College (N.D. Ala. Dec. 11, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a fifty-eight year old male Assistant Dormitory Director at Miles College (MC), alleged that MC discriminated against him on the basis of his age and sex in violation of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), based on Plaintiff’s assertion that he received less pay than other similarly-situated employees. The court found that Plaintiff’s use of comparator evidence did not establish a prima facie case of age or gender discrimination because one of Plaintiff’s identified comparators was not similarly-situated and additionally, Plaintiff ignored a significant group of comparators who were treated equally or less favorably than him. In looking at the age, gender, and pay rate of other Assistant Dormitory Supervisors at MC, the court found five female employees that were paid less than Plaintiff, three younger employees that were paid the same or less than Plaintiff, and the highest paid employee to be two years older than Plaintiff.

12/14/2017
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Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Workman v. University of Akron (N.D. Ohio Dec. 11, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, who became pregnant while enrolled in the University of Akron (AU)’s Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy Master’s Program, alleged under Title IX that AU discriminated against her due to her pregnancy and was deliberately indifferent in its response to her claim of pregnancy discrimination following her dismissal from the program for failing to pass a required examination. Looking to the undisputed facts of the case, the court found that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of discrimination or d­eliberate indifference, nor could she establish pretext for any of Defendant’s legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for Plaintiff’s dismissal. The court found that Plaintiff’s poor performance on the required examination was not attributable to pregnancy discrimination. Plaintiff’s remaining allegations regarding insufficient opportunities to fulfill clinical requirements and Plaintiff’s pre-practicum field experience failed because Plaintiff was assigned clinical hours in the same manner as other non-pregnant students, and AU declined to approve Plaintiff’s preferred internship site  because the site did not comply with the program’s policy of requiring supervisors to be located in the same building as the student intern.

12/13/2017
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Authorizations & Regulations

U.S. Dep’t of Education Office of Inspector General Issues “Federal Student Aid’s Borrower Defense to Repayment Loan Discharge Process” (Dec. 8, 2017)

The U.S. Dep’t of Education’s Office of Inspector General issued a report reviewing Federal Student Aid (FSA)’s process for discharging repayment loans by students asserting “borrower defense,” which provides repayment forgiveness of federal student loans where students can demonstrate that the school they attended violated state law. The report identified, among other findings, four weaknesses related to FSA’s student loan borrower defense loan discharge policies and procedures and made recommendations for improvement, such as having the Chief Operating Officer (COO)—under approval from the Acting Under Secretary—resume the review, approval, and discharge processes for qualifying claims and to have the COO consider and determine whether additional categories of claims qualify for discharge. The U.S. Dep’t of Education generally agreed with the recommendations of the report and is now tasked with developing a final corrective plan within 30 days of the report’s issuance. 

12/13/2017
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