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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.

Dates
Retaliation; Disability Discrimination; First Amendment & Free Speech; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Constitutional Issues

Gamino v. Yosemite Community College District, et al. (E.D. Cal. April 16, 2018)

Order and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge to grant-in-part and deny-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a student at Yosemite Community College (YCC) who suffers from hypoplastic right heart syndrome, alleged that Defendants discriminated against him based on disability; retaliated against him for filing a discrimination complaint; and deprived him of his right to free speech and privacy, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act (RA), and the First Amendment pursuant to section 1983. Plaintiff’s claims arise from his interactions with two YCC instructors who purportedly required him to take tests without accommodations and who made certain remarks about his disability in class, as well as YCC administrators who responded to his complaints. The court found that Plaintiff failed to plausibly allege disability discrimination or retaliation under the ADA and RA because he failed to show that his medical condition “substantially limit[ed] one or more major life activity,” or that he was “excluded from participation in or otherwise discriminated against with regard to education.” Plaintiff’s ADA and RA personal liability claims against Defendants in their individual capacities were dismissed because the statutes did not allow such claims, while the Eleventh Amendment barred Plaintiff’s claims for monetary damages. Among Plaintiff’s section 1983 claims, the court found that only his First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Peterson could proceed.

4/20/2018
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Collective Bargaining; Faculty & Staff

Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill. v. Ill. Educ. Labor Relations Bd. and Univ. Professionals of Ill. (Ill. App. April 16, 2018)

Opinion reversing the findings of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. Petitioner, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (UI), appeals the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (Board)’s decision to categorize department chairs at UI’s Springfield campus as non-managerial employees, thereby including them in the bargaining unit for tenured and tenure-track faculty members.  The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act defines “managerial employee” as one who is “’engaged predominately’ in executive and management functions” and one who “has the responsibility of directing the effectuation of management policies and practice.” The court held that department chairs met both criteria based on their various responsibilities, such as recruiting, evaluating, and terminating adjuncts; overseeing their departmental budgets; ensuring academic and accreditation report compliance; attending leadership meetings; and handling disputes between faculty, students, and support staff. Moreover, the court found that UI’s model of shared governance did not preclude a finding of management status because department chairs continued to have independent authority to establish and effectuate departmental policies and were in a position to resolve grievances in UI’s interest.

4/20/2018
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Students

Donoso v. New York University (N.Y. App. Div. April 17, 2018)

Opinion affirming dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims.  Plaintiff alleged that New York University (NYU) breached a contract, violated his civil rights, an engaged in fraud when it revoked his admission to the Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD) Program based on poor academic performance in his LLM coursework.  Under New York law, claims related to academic determinations are subject to a 4-month statute of limitations.  Because Plaintiff filed the action nearly eight months after he was notified of NYU’s determination to withdraw his admission to the JSD program, the action was time-barred.  Regarding Plaintiff’s non-academic allegations, the court affirmed dismissal because the allegations stated in the complaint were refuted by the documents attached to the complaint.

4/19/2018
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Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Hall v. Hofstra University (N.Y. Sup. Ct. April 3, 2018)

Decision and Order granting Petitioner’s Order to Show Cause, annulling Hofstra University’s findings and sanctions, and ordering Hofstra University to expunge the institution’s Notice of Sanctions.  Petitioner’s girlfriend (“Complainant”) filed a formal complaint with the Office of Public Safety, alleging that Petitioner pushed her, cornered her, and threw pepper in her eyes.  As an interim measure, Hofstra imposed a no contact order of indefinite duration, effectively prohibiting the parties from contacting one another and prohibiting the Petitioner from entering any Hofstra residence hall.  Ten months later, when the Complainant decided to proceed with formal proceedings, a Hearing Board found Petitioner responsible for “dating violence,” and Hofstra sanctioned him to a one-year suspension with various conditions imposed for his return.  Petitioner filed this action pursuant to New York Law, challenging the determination of the hearing board and seeking to expunge the finding and sanctions.  Ruling in favor of the Petitioner, the court found that Hofstra failed to comply with its own policies by delaying the proceedings, implementing a no-contact order of unlimited duration, failing to discipline the Complainant for admitted policy violations of a similar nature to those at issue in the conduct proceedings, failing to discipline the complainant for violating the no-contact order, and denying Petitioner’s counsel the opportunity to take notes on the case file. 

4/19/2018
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Contract Administration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Breuder v. College of DuPage, et al. (7th Cir. April 17, 2018)

Interlocutory opinion affirming the decision of the district court.  Plaintiff, the President of the College of DuPage, alleged that the Board of Trustees breached his employment contract, defamed him, and deprived him of liberty and property interests without due process, when it terminated his employment without a hearing.  Looking to Illinois statutory and case law, and rejecting Plaintiff’s argument that the President’s entire contract was invalid, the court allowed Plaintiff’s contract claims to proceed, noting that disputes as to particular clauses within a contract should be resolved through the regular channels of appeal, and not through interlocutory proceedings.  The court also affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity, based on Plaintiff’s clearly established right to a hearing to ascertain whether the President had engaged in misconduct that warranted termination.  The court declined to extend its interlocutory review to matters beyond these two issues.

4/19/2018
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Retaliation

Roberts v. City Colleges of Chicago (Ill. App. April 16, 2018)

Opinion affirming-in-part and reversing-in-part the district court’s decision.  Plaintiff, the Director of Medical Programs at Malcom X College, alleged that Malcom X College unlawfully terminated him after he complained that an unqualified instructor had been hired to teach Phlebotomy.  On appeal, he argued that the district court erred in dismissing his retaliatory discharge and whistleblower claims.  Reversing the district court on a matter deemed to be one of first impression, the court reinstated Plaintiff’s retaliatory discharge claim, reasoning that the right to obtain an education from qualified instructors sufficiently alleged a clear mandate of public policy to support the retaliatory discharge claim. The court affirmed dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim under the state Whistleblower Act, because Plaintiff did not plead that he had refused a demand from his employer to engage in unlawful conduct.

4/19/2018
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Government Relations; Authorizations & Regulations

NACUBO “What Did I Miss in Washington?” April 3 – April 16, 2018

Summary from the National Association of College & University Business Officers on legislative and regulatory actions that occurred between April 3, 2018 – April 16, 2018. This summary highlights proposals passed by the House Ways and Means Committee to reform the Internal Revenue Service in light of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a letter by the Student Aid Alliance to House and Senate appropriations committees for new funding levels of certain programs following the passage of the omnibus spending bill, and a letter signed by thirty-seven higher education associations urging the Department of Homeland Security to expedite its review of DACA renewal applications.

4/18/2018
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Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Emanuelson v. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, et al. (M.D. N.C. April 12, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Recommendation by United States Magistrate Judge to grant-in-part and deny-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a graduate nursing student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), alleged that UNCG 1) discriminated against him based on his disability by denying his request for an accommodation at a clinical site and 2) deprived him of due process by dismissing him from the nursing program for “unsafe practice” without certain procedural safeguards. As an initial matter, the court found that Plaintiff’s section 1983 due process claim could proceed only where he sought reinstatement into the nursing program, since the prospective relief was based on an ongoing violation of federal law within the Ex parte Young exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Furthermore, the court allowed Plaintiff’s due process claim to advance to discovery after balancing Plaintiff’s high interest in completing his degree against Defendants’ low burden of providing additional safeguards—such as allowing Plaintiff’s attorney to be present, giving Plaintiff the opportunity to call and question witnesses, and providing Plaintiff advance notice of all the evidence. The court further found that Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to support plausible disability discrimination claims under the ADA and RA against Individual Defendants in their official capacities.

4/18/2018
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