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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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Retaliation; Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Mahar v. Meharry Medical College and Dr. Medhat Kalliny (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 18, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a first-year female resident at Meharry Medical College, alleged under Title VII and Tennessee state law that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, created a hostile work environment, retaliated against her, breached a contract, and committed various torts, by issuing negative performance evaluations and declining to renew Plaintiff’s residency contract. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendants’ negative evaluations were exacted as punishment for Plaintiff’s refusal to acquiesce to the sexual advances of the Associate Residency Program Director.  Plaintiff purportedly reported these unwanted advances to the Interim Chair of the Department, who failed to address them. The court allowed Plaintiff’s hostile work environment and retaliation claims to proceed after finding a genuine issue appropriate for trial. However, the court summarily dismissed Plaintiff’s other claims because Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination, failed to exhaust administrative remedies to bring a contract action against the Defendant, and failed to respond to the summary judgment motion on her tort claims.  

12/20/2017
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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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Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Kubik v. Central Michigan University Board of Trustees, et al. (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2017)

Unpublished Opinion affirming the district court’s award of summary judgment to the Defendants. Plaintiff, a female tenure-track assistant professor at Central Michigan University (CMU), alleged that CMU violated Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and Michigan’s Civil Rights Act when it purportedly discriminated against her on the basis of her pregnancy, created a hostile work environment, and retaliated against her following Plaintiff’s filing of complaints with CMU’s Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity (OCRIE) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and following Defendants’ decisions not to reappoint Plaintiff to a new term. The court found that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case for any of her three claims. Specifically, Plaintiff could not show in support of her sex discrimination claim a sufficient nexus between her pregnancy and the departmental votes against her reappointment. Further, Plaintiff failed to show that she received unequal treatment that would not have occurred but-for her gender, or that her alleged harassment was so severe or pervasive that it amounted to a hostile work environment. Last, Plaintiff could not show in support of her retaliation claim a causal connection between her filings with the OCRIE and EEOC and Plaintiff’s non-reappoint to a new term, especially in light of Defendants’ consistent concerns about Plaintiff’s limited scholarly output. 

12/4/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Religious Discrimination; Disability Discrimination; Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Heit v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, et al. (E.D. Pa. Nov. 29, 2017)

Memorandum granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a forty-eight year old Jewish woman and former employee of the University of Pennsylvania Dental School, alleged that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her age, sex, religion, and disability; retaliated against her for filing internal complaints; and created a hostile work environment in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Title VII, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after she was terminated for underperformance and for submitting a false timesheet. The court found that Plaintiff’s age discrimination claim failed because she could not show that her termination was pretextual or that discriminatory animus was the but-for cause for her termination. Additionally, Plaintiff’s disparate treatment and ADA claims failed because she did not allege circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. Moreover, Plaintiff failed to produce evidence of intentional discrimination that was so severe or pervasive that it amounted to a hostile work environment, and her retaliation claim failed because she could not show a causal connection between her termination and her protected activity of filing internal complaints two years prior.

12/1/2017
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Sex Discrimination; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Hunter v. University of Chicago (N.D. Ill. Nov. 16, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant’s Partial Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, an African American woman with children, alleged that the University of Chicago (UC) discriminated against her on the basis of her race in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as well as alleging “race plus” and “sex plus” theories under those same statutes, after Plaintiff was asked in a final interview with UC if she had children and UC subsequently hired a white female with no children for the same position. The court found that Plaintiff’s subjective belief that she was more qualified than the hired applicant was insufficient for establishing that UC had an intent to discriminate. Further, the court found that Plaintiff’s intersectional “race plus” and “sex plus” claims were not cognizable in the Seventh Circuit and even if they were, Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies to bring them forth. 

11/21/2017
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