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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; Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Naugle v. Susquehanna University, et al. (M.D. Pa. Jan 23, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Counts I, III, and part of Count IV. Plaintiff, a sixty-four-year-old man employed by Susquehanna University as an interlibrary loan assistant, brought claims of age and gender discrimination under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Pennsylvania state law following his termination. The court found that Plaintiff’s gender discrimination claim under federal and state law could not proceed because he did not exhaust his administrative remedies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, since he neglected to check the gender discrimination box on the EEOC charge. 

1/26/2018
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Sex Discrimination; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Retaliation; Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Belcher v. Springfield College (E.D. Wis. Jan. 16, 2018)

Order denying Defendant’s Motion for Partial Dismissal. Plaintiff, an African-American female adjunct instructor at Springfield College (SC), alleged that SC discriminated against her on the basis of her race, age, and sex and subjected her to disparate treatment on account of her race, after SC denied her a promotion and “terminated” her a year later by declining to give her teaching assignments.  Plaintiff further alleged that SC retaliated against her for filing three charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims related to unwarranted discipline and increased scrutiny because Plaintiff did not mention these claims in her EEOC charge. However, acknowledging the lenient standard at the pleadings stage, the court allowed Plaintiff’s “termination” claim to proceed because it was reasonable to expect an investigation of unlawful termination to follow from the content contained Plaintiff’s EEOC charge, even though “termination” was not specifically mentioned in the charge. The court further found that at this juncture, Plaintiff sufficiently plead claims of retaliation despite the delay in her filing EEOC charges and formal termination because the contracts-based nature of Plaintiff’s employment explained the delay in filing. 

1/19/2018
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Retaliation; Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Pequeño v. University of Texas at Brownsville, et al. (5th Cir. Jan. 16, 2018)

Order affirming Appellee Texas Southmost College (TSC)’s Motion to Dismiss. Appellant, an academic advisor for the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB), alleged age discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII, and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) following Appellant’s dismissal as part of a UTB reduction in workforce and TSC’s later decision not to rehire him following its merger with UTB. The court found that UTB was protected by sovereign immunity from Appellant’s claims and that its contracting with a private junior college, TSC, did not waive UTB’s immunity. The court further found that through both the common law test of control and hybrid economic realities analysis, UTB was Appellant’s employer throughout the alleged violations and therefore, any age discrimination claims against TSC could not proceed. Last, the court noted that Appellant’s Title VII claim fails because Title VII does not allow for claims of age discrimination. 

1/19/2018
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Race and National Origin Discrimination; Age Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Ortiz v. Cedar Crest College (E.D. Pa. Dec. 18, 2017)

Opinion granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a fifty-one year old former Network Administrator at Cedar Crest College (CCC), alleged that CCC discriminated against him based on age and national origin when CCC terminated his employment after it learned that Plaintiff had failed to create backups to recover data lost in a  server crash. The court found that Plaintiff failed to show a prima facie case of age discrimination, specifically because he did not show that his “replacement” was significantly younger, nor did he produce evidence showing that his duties as Network Administrator had been assumed by a new hire. Further, Plaintiff could not show that CCC’s non-discriminatory reason for terminating Plaintiff was pretextual, since Plaintiff’s job required that he maintain backups of the server and prevent server crashes such as the one that occurred, which resulted in CCC’s loss of data and costed CCC thousands of dollars. Similarly, the court found that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of national origin discrimination since he offered no evidence that he was treated differently from similarly situated employees of different national origins. 

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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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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Employee Discipline; Tenure; Age Discrimination; Due Process; Faculty & Staff; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Constitutional Issues

Heineke v. Santa Clara University, et al. (N.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2017)

Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a seventy-nine year old tenured professor at Santa Clara University (SCU), a private institution, brought a section 1983 claim for due process violations and a claim of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) against SCU after he was dismissed following an SCU determination that Plaintiff violated the institution’s Gender-Based Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy. Plaintiff also brought claims against a former student and SCU for wrongful termination, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. The court found that Plaintiff did not sufficiently plead state action to support his section 1983 claim and further, was unpersuaded by Plaintiff’s argument that SCU’s compliance with Title IX obligations transformed the private institution into a state actor. Additionally, the court found that Plaintiff did not plead sufficient facts to support his age discrimination claim, primarily because his conclusory allegations were unsupported by evidence showing that he was fired because of his age or that SCU sought to replace him with someone younger. The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims. 

12/8/2017
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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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