home

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
Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Bonadona v. Louisiana College, et al. (W.D. of La. July 13, 2018)

Report and Recommendation granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, an individual of Jewish heritage but of Christian faith, alleged that Louisiana College (LC) did not hire him for an assistant coach position purportedly because of his “Jewish blood” in violation of Title VII and section 1981. The court found that Plaintiff did not have a cognizable claim against Defendant Brewer, the president of LC, because he is not an “employer” within the meaning of Title VII. However, the court allowed Plaintiff’s Title VII claim against LC to proceed after finding that discrimination based on Jewish heritage is discrimination based on race, and thus actionable under Title VII.

7/20/2018
read
Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Fine v. Tumpkin, et al. (D. Colo. July 18, 2018)

Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, an individual with no affiliation or connection to the University of Colorado (UC), brought claims of general negligence and civil conspiracy against Individual Defendants based on their failure to take appropriate action against Defendant Tumpkin, the Assistant Coach for the UC men’s football team, after Plaintiff reported to various university officials that Tumpkin had physically and psychologically abused her. In dismissing the Complaint, the court concluded that UC owed no duty to Plaintiff, whether arising out of university policy, statute, or common law.  Absent an underlying tort claim, Plaintiff’s civil conspiracy claim failed.

7/20/2018
read
Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Jane Doe v. Brown University, et al. (1st Cir. July 18, 2018)

Opinion affirming a judgment of the district court in favor of the Defendants. Plaintiff, a former student of Providence College, alleged that Brown University acted with deliberate indifference in violation of Title IX when responding to her report of sexual assault by three Brown University football players. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Brown’s inaction caused her to withdraw from Providence College, effectively denying her access to educational opportunities. Looking to Supreme Court case law to define the scope of Title IX as limited to individuals who participate in education programs provided by a Defendant, the court found that because Plaintiff’s Complaint did not alleged that “she participated or even would have participated in any of Brown’s educational programs or activities,”  and because she did not allege that she was deprived of educational opportunities or benefits provided by Brown, she failed to state a plausible claim under Title IX.

7/20/2018
read
Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Disability Discrimination

Hostettler v. College of Wooster (6th Cir. July 17, 2018)

Opinion reversing the Order of the district court and remanding for further proceedings. Plaintiff, an HR Generalist at Wooster College (WC), alleged that WC discriminated against her based on her pregnancy in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and state law by terminating her when she requested to extend her part-time work schedule due to postpartum depression and separation anxiety. WC administrators explained that they terminated Plaintiff because full-time presence at work was an essential function of her position. The court determined that competing evidence should have precluded the district court from granting summary judgment on Plaintiff’s ADA claim. Namely, genuine disputes of material fact remained as to whether working full-time was an essential function of Plaintiff’s position, whether Plaintiff completed all of her work while on a part-time schedule, and whether WC was willing to engage in an interactive process after Plaintiff requested an accommodation. Of particular note, the court stated, “[F]ull-time presence at work is not an essential function of a job solely because an employer says that it is . . . . An employer cannot deny a modified work schedule as unreasonable unless the employer can show why the employee is needed on a full-time schedule.”  Since the essential function of Plaintiff’s position presented a genuine dispute of material fact, the court found that WC could no longer allege a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for Plaintiff’s termination and allowed her Title VII claim to proceed. Last, the court directed the district court to address on remand whether equitable estoppel entitled Plaintiff to FMLA benefits despite her being on leave for longer than the FMLA allowed, given that WC treated all of her leave as FMLA eligible and Plaintiff “relied to her detriment on Wooster’s misrepresentation that she was FMLA eligible.”

7/19/2018
read
Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Zimmerman v. University of Utah and McMahon (D. Utah July 17, 2018)

Memorandum Decision and Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a former employee of the University of Utah, alleged a number of violations under state and federal law in connection to her dismissal from the University. At issue in the present case was whether the requested relief was properly classified as prospective injunctive relief, such that Plaintiff’s section 1983 due process claim against Defendant McMahon in his official capacity could proceed under the  Ex parte Young doctrine.  The court found that Plaintiff’s request for “back pay and lost benefits, front pay, and attorneys’ fees and costs” did not qualify as injunctive relief, while Plaintiff’s request for the “return of HIPPA and FERPA data, for the return of her CDC grant, and for correction of data errors” did not qualify as prospective relief. As a result, the court only allowed Plaintiff’s claim against Defendant McMahon in his official capacity to proceed where Plaintiff requested reinstatement.  

7/19/2018
read
Sex Discrimination; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Age Discrimination

Johnson v. East Carolina University (N.C. App. July 17, 2018)

Unpublished Opinion affirming the Final Decision of the Administrative Law Judge in favor of Defendant East Carolina University. Plaintiff, a fifty-five-year-old African-American woman who works in the department of Information Technology and Computer Services (ITCS) at East Carolina University (ECU), challenged the Office of Administrative Hearing’s finding that her termination was lawful and she did not qualify for priority consideration under state law. Reviewing the factual findings of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the court found that Plaintiff failed to show that she had the “skills, knowledge, and abilities [bearing] a reasonable functional relationship to the abilities and skills required” for the position. Namely, Plaintiff failed to correctly answer in her interview certain technical questions about the PL/SQL programming language required for the position, and projects listed on Plaintiff’s application failed to show PL/SQL experience. Due to Plaintiff’s limited qualifications as compared to the individual ECU hired, the court affirmed the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff was not entitled to priority consideration under state law.

7/19/2018
read
Real Property, Facilities & Construction; Environmental Health & Safety

Regents of the University of Minnesota v. United States, et al. (D. Minn. July 12, 2018)

Order denying Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Plaintiff, the Regents of the University of Minnesota (UM), sought damages and declaratory relief against Defendants under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Minnesota Environmental Response and Liability Act (MERLA) for costs they incurred while investigating the environmental effects of hazardous materials emitted from a cannon and rifle powder manufacturing facility built by DuPont, used by the U.S. government during World War II, and sold to Plaintiff through a quitclaim deed in 1948. The U.S. government brought a counterclaim for breach of contract, arguing that provisions of the quitclaim deed and contract for sale released it of any liabilities or responsibilities for claims under CERCLA, while UM argued that those same provisions only addressed the risk of residual explosives and did not include general environmental liability. The court found that the contracts supported both parties’ interpretations and therefore made its terms ambiguous. Specifically, the court noted that the broadly written provisions suggested liability beyond residual explosives, but the contracts’ execution thirty years prior to the passage of CERCLA raised questions about the parties’ awareness of general environmental liabilities. Accordingly, the court also allowed the U.S. government’s counterclaim for breach of contract to proceed to discovery.

7/17/2018
read
First Amendment & Free Speech; Constitutional Issues; Student Athlete Issues; Due Process; Athletics & Sports

De La Haye v. Hitt, et al. (M.D. Fla. July 10, 2018)

Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a University of Central Florida (UCF) football player, alleged that UCF violated his rights of free speech and substantive due process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments when cancelling his athletic scholarship after UCF officials learned that Plaintiff had monetized his YouTube channel.  UCF characterized Plaintiff’s YouTube activity as a violation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Bylaw 12.4.4, which states that a student-athlete may not use their “name, photograph, appearance, or athletic reputations” to promote a business they’ve established.  As an initial matter, the court determined that Plaintiff had standing to seek injunctive and declaratory relief, and Plaintiff’s claims were not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Turning to the merits, the court found that Plaintiff presented a plausible First Amendment claim based on his theory that UCF cancelled his scholarship and removed him from the football team due to the content of his YouTube videos. However, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s substantive due process claim after determining that Plaintiff did not have a protected property interest in his athletic scholarship, and the cancellation of his scholarship could not be recast as a deprivation of a protected interest in continuing enrollment since UCF did not academically dismiss or suspend him.

7/16/2018
read
12345678910...>>