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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.

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

Elizabeth Tarpley v. City Colleges of Chicago (N.D. Ill. August 22, 2017)

Opinion and Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a Director of Information Technology at City Colleges of Chicago, alleged that Defendant failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation, engaged in discrimination, and retaliated against her in violation of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as interfered with her rights and retaliated against her for exercising her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Plaintiff took continuous and intermittent FMLA leave and made two requests to work from home as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The court found no evidence that Defendant refused to provide her with an accommodation because Plaintiff’s first request was quickly followed by her request for a return-to-work authorization, mooting the request, and her second request could not be fully considered before Plaintiff’s resignation five days later. The court further found that Plaintiff failed to plead facts sufficient to show she suffered an adverse employment action for her ADA discrimination and retaliation claims to succeed. Additionally, the court found that Plaintiff’s FMLA interference claim failed because she took all the FMLA leave she was entitled to and Defendant approved all FMLA leave she requested.  Lastly, the court found that Plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation claim also failed because she did not provide any evidence of any actionable adverse employment action. Finding no genuine issue as to any material fact, the court entered judgement for City Colleges on all remaining counts and terminated the case. 

8/28/2017
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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Carolyn Roys v. Upper Iowa University (N.D. Iowa August 17, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  Plaintiff alleged that Upper Iowa University discriminated against her for exercising her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) after it fired her from her position as the Director of Academic Success.  Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that various performance concerns leading to her termination were motivated by the fact that she had taken leave under the FMLA to recover from surgery.  The Court found that Plaintiff failed to produce evidence of the requisite intent necessary to establish pretext for discrimination, since Plaintiff conceded poor job performance, neglected to identify a similarly-situated colleague who was treated in a different manner, and failed to identify any way in which the university departed from legal or procedural requirements in administering the FMLA leave or terminating the Plaintiff.

8/21/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Disability Discrimination; Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Bunch v. University of Arkansas Board of Trustees (8th Cir. July 24, 2017)

Order affirming the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the University of Arkansas. An African-American woman was hired as a program eligibility specialist for the University. During the preliminary 90-day probationary period, she refused to sign a performance review due to the negative marks she received on cooperation.  She also filed a grievance alleging discriminatory harassment by her coworkers, and was ultimately terminated for missing work after she attempted to take unpaid leave for which she was not eligible. She filed suit alleging claims under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). After the district court granted summary judgment to the University, Plaintiff appealed all but her Section 504 and FMLA claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff’s ADA, ADEA, Section 1981 and Section 1983 claims, and that Plaintiff’s allegations of race and gender discrimination were not plausible on their face.  

8/9/2017
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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Faculty & Staff; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Maliandi v. Montclair State University (D.N.J. July 17, 2017)

Opinion affirming the magistrate judge’s denial of leave to amend the Complaint, granting MSU’s Motion to Dismiss, and denying Montclair State University’s (MSU) cross-appeal as moot. Plaintiff filed suit against MSU alleging that she was wrongfully terminated from her position in violation of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and state antidiscrimination law. MSU moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on sovereign immunity grounds. The court dismissed MSU’s Motion, concluding that MSU is not the state's alter ego and is subject to suit. On appeal, the Third Circuit reversed and remanded, finding that MSU is in fact an arm of the state and therefore was entitled to sovereign immunity. On remand, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend her Complaint to add two University employees as defendants to the FMLA claim. The magistrate judge denied this Motion because the amendment did not relate back to the original Complaint, over which the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Third Circuit’s decision. The district court affirmed and added that because MSU is immune from suit under the FMLA and the state antidiscrimination law, it was required to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety.  

7/18/2017
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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Retaliation; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Faculty & Staff; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Retaliation; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Disability Discrimination; Race and National Origin Discrimination

Vincent v. College of the Mainland (5th Cir. July 7, 2017)

Per curiam Opinion affirming the district court’s grant of the College of the Mainland’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff-Appellant sued the College after she was terminated from her position as a Computer Lab Assistant. She had taken leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 2008 and 2009, but continuing issues with tardiness and unexcused absences, along with her failure to comply with her supervisor’s directives or remedy her behavior, ultimately led to her termination. Plaintiff-Appellant alleged that she had been terminated due to her race, sex, and disability under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and retaliated against under both statutes as well as the FMLA. Plaintiff-Appellant appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, claiming that it had erred in 1) adopting an improperly-narrow, “nearly identical” standard to dismiss her alleged comparator; and 2) insisting that plaintiffs can only bring discrimination claims for actions that constitute ultimate employment decisions, not merely “materially adverse” actions. The Fifth Circuit disagreed, holding instead that it was bound by Fifth Circuit precedent on both arguments. It further concluded that the magistrate judge properly dismissed Plaintiff-Appellant’s Title VII, ADA, and FMLA retaliation claims. 

7/10/2017
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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Disability Discrimination; Faculty & Staff; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Trahanas v. Northwestern University (N.D. Ill. July 6, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. A former research technician at Northwestern who suffered from anxiety, depression, and ADHD claimed that her supervisor had denied her requested accommodation of reduced work hours. The supervisor then allegedly taunted Plaintiff for her disability and request for accommodations, disclosed Plaintiff’s disability to her coworkers, and failed to discipline those coworkers for mocking Plaintiff. Plaintiff eventually took leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for stress related to the alleged harassment. After she was later terminated, Plaintiff filed suit against Northwestern University and her former supervisor for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII, and the FMLA, along with various state law tort theories. The court dismissed all but Plaintiff’s Title VII hostile work environment/discrimination, ADA retaliation, FMLA retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims.

7/10/2017
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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Retaliation; Retaliation; Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Padilla v. Yeshiva University (2d Cir. May 31, 2017)

Summary Order vacating and remanding the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims. Two former employees of Yeshiva University brought a retaliation claim against the University and their union under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and a disability discrimination claim based on alleged violations of state law. The district court dismissed their claims upon finding that Plaintiffs provided insufficient evidence to link their FMLA leave to their termination. The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling, holding that at the pleading stage, the inconsistencies in the timing and sequence of events and the purported hostility on the part of Yeshiva were sufficient to support a plausible inference of retaliation. Plaintiffs’ disability discrimination claim was also reinstated and remanded. 

6/2/2017
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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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