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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; 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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Retaliation; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Equal Protection; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Constitutional Issues

Warr-Hightower v. Illinois Central College, et al. (C.D. Ill. Nov. 14, 2017)

Order and Opinion granting in part and denying in part Defendants‘ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, an African American woman employed by Illinois Central College (ICC), alleged individual claims of race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII, the Illinois Civil Rights Act (ICRA), section 2000e, and section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act following her denial of two promotions in which she was qualified. Plaintiff also brought a class action claim on behalf of African American employees affected by ICC’s policies and practices of “creating a predominantly and disproportionately non-African American upper echelon workforce” and ICC’s use of a “sham investigation process” that purportedly resulted in retaliation when individuals sought outside process. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s class action claim because she failed to include the claim in her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge and therefore, had not exhausted her administrative remedies. The court further found that even if Plaintiff had exhausted administrative requirements, Plaintiff could not support a class action claim because her pleadings did not allege a class so numerous that joinder would be impractical, nor did she show a typicality of facts, such that allegations and remedies would rest on common facts rather than individualized fact findings and liability determinations. However, the court found that Plaintiff sufficiently met the pleading requirements for her individual claims of race discrimination and retaliation. The court further found that Plaintiff’s section 1983 equal protection claim could proceed against individual defendants who directly participated in the alleged constitutional violation. 

11/20/2017
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Race and National Origin Discrimination; Age Discrimination; Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Sims v. The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Nov. 1, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a sixty-four year old African American custodian for Columbia University (CU), alleged that CU discriminated against him based on race, age, and disability,  created a hostile work environment, and retaliated against him for complaining about discrimination in violation of New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The court found that Plaintiff failed to show that the terms and conditions of his employment were discriminatory or that similarly-situated custodians not in Plaintiff's protected classes were treated more favorably, even under the more liberal “mixed-motive” standard of New York state law that requires Plaintiffs to show unlawful discrimination as just one, among many, of the motivating factors behind an employer’s adverse action. Furthermore, the court found that the facts supporting Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim—namely, racial epithets made on three occasions over nine years and purported age-related statements from his supervisor and co-workers—were either isolated incidents that did not pervade the work environment or were too vague to infer bias. Last, the court found that Plaintiff’s retaliation claim could not proceed because Plaintiff's sole complaint was investigated by CU and the subsequent retaliatory actions he alleged were not causally connected.

11/14/2017
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Equal Protection; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Constitutional Issues

The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, et al. v. Maryland Higher Education, et al. (D. Md. Nov. 8, 2017)

Order appointing a Special Master to develop a Remedial Plan. Plaintiff is a coalition of prospective students, current students, and alumni of Maryland’s historically black institutions (HBIs) that successfully showed violations of Title VI and the Equal Protection Clause by the State of Maryland, specifically that “unnecessary program duplication within Maryland’s system of higher education continues to have segregative effects for which the State has no sound educational justification.” Presently before the court were remedial plans proposed by both parties. In reviewing the proposed remedies under the legal framework of United States v. Fordice, the court determined that neither party’s proposed remedies were “sufficiently practicable, educationally sound, and likely to achieve the greatest possible reduction in segregative effects to justify an order of their imposition.”  While concluding that unique, high-demand programs would reduce the segregative effects of unnecessary program duplication, the court rejected Plaintiffs’ proposal to transfer unique programs from TWIs to HBIs, finding that the proposal would negatively impact student recruitment and faculty retention at TWIs, threaten institutional accreditation, and harm institutions’ reputations. The court will appoint a Special Master to develop and monitor a remedial plan to include the creation of new, high-demand programs at HBIs and provide HBIs with funding for student recruitment, financial aid, marketing, and related initiatives.

11/13/2017
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Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Terrill v. Limestone College and Griffin (D.S.C. Oct. 31, 2017)

Order granting Defendants’ partial Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff is an African American male employee of Limestone College who first alleged racial discrimination and retaliation under state law in Terrill I. Following Plaintiff’s stipulation of dismissal with prejudice in Terrill I, Plaintiff alleged those same claims under section 1981 of federal law and argued that the claims were not precluded by res judicata. The court affirmed the magistrate judge’s finding that the claims brought in Terrill II arose out of the same transaction or occurrence as Terrill I and that Plaintiff’s stipulation of dismissal in Terrill I was a final adjudication. 

11/3/2017
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Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Doan v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University, et al. (E.D. La. Nov. 1, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a Louisiana State University (LSU) dentistry student of Vietnamese ethnicity, alleged that LSU racially discriminated against her in violation of Title VI after the University expelled her for multiple instances of cheating. The court found that Plaintiff failed to show intentional discrimination by the LSU Board and instead alleged conclusory and vague statements about the Board’s actual knowledge of discrimination and its purported deliberately indifferent response.

11/3/2017
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Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Nzabandora v. University of Virginia (W.D. Va. October 24, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, an African-American nurse, brought a hostile work environment claim against Defendant a fellow employee and a supervisor directed racist remarks towards her. The court found that the remarks were not imputable to Defendant because in one instance, Defendant’s remedial actions  of conducting an internal investigation scheduling Plaintiff and the other employee to different shifts effectively stopped the harassment, and in another instance, Defendant’s anti-discrimination policies and procedures sufficiently supported an affirmative defense under the Faragher/Ellerth framework, since Plaintiff neglected to file a complaint in writing, as required by the University’s policies. 

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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