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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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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Faki v. The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama (N.D. Ala. November 9, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a non-tenured instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) proceeding pro se, alleged that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act and retaliated against her for complaining about “discriminatory conduct regarding disability” by terminating her. The court found that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination because Plaintiff received unfavorable student evaluations long before she reported a disability or requested an accommodation, nor could she allege sufficient evidence to demonstrate pretext against Defendant’s legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for her termination, which cited student complaints about Plaintiff’s poor teaching performance and UAB’s decision to reduce Spanish courses due to low enrollment. 

11/16/2017
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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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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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Foundations & Affiliated Entities; Contract Administration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Governance; Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Huffman v. University Medical Center Management Corp., et al. (E.D. La. Oct. 31, 2017)

Order and Reasons denying Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a deaf individual who communicates primarily in American Sign Language, alleged that Defendants’ failure to provide her an interpreter while she was admitted to University Medical Center, a full-service hospital owned by Defendant Louisiana State University (LSU) but operated by a private entity through a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, resulted in her receiving substandard medical treatment in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the American Disabilities Act. The issue before the court was whether LSU’s contract with Defendant Louisiana Children’s Medical Center (LCMC) and Defendant University Medical Center Management Corporation (UMCMC), to provide medical services that LSU was authorized to provide, qualified as a “service, program, or activity” of LSU. The court found that Plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to proceed and in its reasoning, adopted 5th Circuit precedent and regulatory guidance that imputed liability to state entities when they have contracted with a private entity to provide services and the private entity denies a person services because of a disability.

11/3/2017
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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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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Entine v. Lissner (S.D. Ohio October 30, 2017)

Order granting Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Plaintiff, an Ohio State University (OSU) student and member of a sorority, sought to enjoin OSU’s ADA Coordinator from either removing her from the sorority house or requiring her to relinquish her dog. Facts are disputed about whether the dog was a service animal or an emotional support animal, and whether another resident of the sorority house requested an accommodation to live in a dog-free environment due to allergies that exacerbated her Crohn’s disease. The court found that Plaintiff sufficiently showed immediacy and irreparable harm because, without the TRO, she was required to either move out of the house, resign as Vice President of the sorority, and risk the permanent loss of her room assignment, or choose to continue living there without her dog. The court further found that by prioritizing a sorority housemate’s request to accommodate her allergy, solely because the housemate had signed a lease before Plaintiff, was not in OSU’s written policies or procedures. 

11/1/2017
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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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