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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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Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Summy-Long v. Pennsylvania State University, et al. (3rd Cir. Nov. 6, 2017)

Opinion affirming summary judgment for the Defendant. Plaintiff, a former female employee of Pennsylvania State University, alleged that the University gave her unequal pay because of her gender and retaliated against her in violation of Title VII, Title IX, the Federal Equal Pay Act, section 1983 and 1985 of the Civil Rights Act, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The court found that Plaintiff did not present a prima facie case of sex discrimination, unequal pay, or retaliation. Specific to Plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim, the court found that Plaintiff’s reliance on statistical information was insufficient because it “did not establish causation for any salary disparities, analyze individualized circumstances, or explain the qualitative aspects of the faculty.” Even if Plaintiff could establish a prima facie case, she could not rebut the University’s legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for her reduced pay—namely, Plaintiff’s failure to increase publications, renew her grant funding, and obtain external funding. Moreover, the court found that Plaintiff failed to show that male employees were paid more for performing substantially equal work under similar conditions, nor did she rebut the University’s affirmative defense that it awarded salary based on a merit system. Last, the court found that Plaintiff’s retaliation claims failed either for lack of causation or for failing to identify an adverse action. 

11/8/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Tudor v. Southeastern Oklahoma State University and The Regional University System of Oklahoma (W.D. Okla. October 26, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a transgender professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU), alleged that SOSU discriminated and retaliated against her, and created a hostile work environment, by denying her tenure and dismissing her after SOSU learned that Plaintiff would be transitioning from male to female. The court found that Plaintiff had sufficiently shown severe or pervasive conduct for a hostile work environment claim and that Defendants could not assert an affirmative defense under Faragher/Ellerth because their policies were not specific to transgender discrimination. Addressing Plaintiff’s discrimination claim, the court found that Plaintiff had alleged a prima facie case of discrimination and Plaintiff’s evidence of procedural irregularities and inconsistencies in the tenure process were enough to establish pretext. The court also allowed Plaintiff’s retaliation claim to proceed because Plaintiff was a member of a protected class and had plead sufficient facts establishing her protected activities, namely filing an internal grievance and sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Education. 

10/31/2017
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Race and National Origin Discrimination; Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Roy v. University of Mississippi Medical Center, et al. (5th Cir. October 17, 2017)

Per Curiam Judgment affirming the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the Defendants. Plaintiff is a former black female employee of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and alleged that Defendants denied her a promotion and declined to rehire her, on the basis of her race and gender. Plaintiff further alleged that she was terminated as retaliation for filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The court found that Plaintiff failed to establish facts showing she was qualified for the promotion she sought since she only had three and a half years’ experience and the position required five. As to Plaintiff’s failure to hire claim, the court found that Plaintiff failed to establish pretext to rebut UMMC’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for hiring another applicant, specifically because UMMC used a race-blind process to review applicants and there were no facts implicating gender discrimination. Last, the court found that Plaintiff’s retaliation claim failed for lack of causation, since the reduction in force plan, under which Plaintiff was terminated, was finalized four days prior to her filing the EEOC claim. 

10/19/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Title IX; Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues

Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington, et al. (E.D. Va. September 19, 2017)

Opinion granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a student-run feminist organization, sued the University of Mary Washington (UMW) for discrimination and retaliation under Title IX and deprivation of constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause, following cyberbullying of its organizational members on Yik Yak—a social media application that allows users to post anonymous comments. Plaintiff requested, among other things, that UMW disable Yik Yak from its wireless network due to increasing harassment targeting specific members, while UMW contended that it could not disable Yik Yak due to First Amendment concerns. In dismissing Plaintiffs’ deliberate indifference claim, and citing Davis v. Montgomery County Bd. of Educ., the court found that UMW could not, as a matter of law, be subjected to liability for anonymous Yik Yak posts, since UMW neither “exercise[d] substantial control over . . . the harasser,” nor did UMW exercise control “over the context in which the known harassment occur[d].”  Moreover, Plaintiff neither identified a retaliatory action nor similarly situated students that were treated more favorably than Plaintiffs.

9/22/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Erica Stewart v. Belhaven University (S.D. Miss September 8, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Sanctions and Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, who sought a job in Belhaven University (BU)’s Online Admissions Department, alleged sex discrimination under Title VII, negligent supervision, and emotional distress when the Director of the Online Admissions’ (Director)  allegedly conditioned an offer of employment on Plaintiff’s acquiescence to  a sexually explicit text message and photo exchange. Defendants moved for sanctions after Plaintiff destroyed her phone in disregard of her obligation to preserve relevant evidence.  The court fined Plaintiff $100 and required her to pay $500 in attorneys’ fees.  Turning to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, the court found BU was not vicariously liable for the Director’s actions because the Director did not have authority to hire anyone at BU and thus could not, as a matter of law, cause liability to be imputed to the employer for unlawful harassment. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s remaining claims. 

9/11/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Tenure; Faculty & Staff; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Vasudevan v. Administrators of Tulane Educational Fund (5th Cir. Aug. 22, 2017)

Per curiam opinion affirming the district court’s order to strike Plaintiff’s untimely-filed opposition and award summary judgment to the Defendant-Appellees.  Tulane University declined to award tenure to Plaintiff because of insufficient scholarship over a multi-year period.  Plaintiff alleged that the University’s decision to deny her tenure was motivated by impermissible race, gender, and national origin discrimination in violation of Title VII, and that she was retaliated against for protected activities. Noting that a court cannot award summary judgment based solely on an unopposed motion, the Court concluded that sufficient, well-supported evidence justified an award of judgment to the Defendant, since Plaintiff neglected to establish the prima facie elements of a discrimination or retaliation claim, or rebut Defendant’s nondiscriminatory reason for the tenure decision.

8/25/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Whitlow v. Bradley University (C.D. Ill. Aug. 15, 2017)

Order and Opinion granting Bradley University’s Motion to Dismiss. A male Senior Network Analyst at Bradley had a tenuous relationship with his female manager that culminated when the manager commented that the Analyst’s second job as a parks department police officer would interfere with his duties at Bradley. The Analyst sued the University, claiming hostile work environment and gender discrimination under Title VII. Holding that Title VII “is meant to protect individuals from discrimination based on protected immutable traits,” not “a general civility code to be used by anyone upset with his coworker or boss,” the court found that Plaintiff had not plead factual allegations suggesting that he was harassed due to his gender, or that his workplace was objectively hostile.  Plaintiff’s claim of gender discrimination failed because the University’s refusal to offer him an “internal restraining order” against his manager did not constitute an adverse employment action, and his low annual salary increase was neither an adverse employment action nor linked to his gender. 

8/18/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Jensen v. University of Utah (D. Utah Aug. 10, 2017)

Memorandum Decision and Order dismissing four of Plaintiff’s causes of action. Plaintiff served as an Executive Secretary at the University of Utah’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine until she was terminated due to the University’s determination that “there [was] not enough work to justify [her] position.” Prior to her termination, she had initiated a discrimination and retaliation suit against the University. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s age discrimination claim as barred by the Eleventh Amendment and dismissed her gender discrimination and contractual claims after Plaintiff did not oppose the University’s arguments for dismissal on those counts.

8/14/2017
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