False Claims Act; Veterans & USERRA; Faculty & Staff; Research
Hamilton v. Yavapai Community College District, et al. (D. Ariz. April 13, 2018)
Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a terminated employee of Yavapai Community College (YCC), alleged under the False Claims Act (FCA) that YCC and its flight program partner, Defendant Guidance Academy, LLC, conspired to defraud and defrauded the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) by obtaining funding in violation of 38 C.F.R. § 21.401 (85/15 Rule) and by submitting claims for in-flight training that never occurred. Plaintiff further alleged FCA retaliation and a number of intentional interference claims against Defendants. Addressing whether YCC violated the 85/15 Rule by calculating a single 85/15 ratio for its entire aviation program, rather than calculating four distinct ratios based on its four concentrations within the aviation program, the court found it reasonable for YCC to believe that it was properly calculating and reporting its compliance in 2015 based on the VA’s review of its program from June 1, 2013 to May 6, 2014 and evidence that another area college similarly calculated its 85/15 ratio. However, the court found that YCC’s practice of counting high school students who participated in its aviation program towards the 15% of “nonsupported” students created several issues of material fact as to whether Defendants knowingly miscalculated the 85/15 ratio and whether this alleged failure to comply was material to the VA’s disbursement of funding. The court allowed Plaintiff’s FCA conspiracy and retaliation, intentional interference with education and employment, and deprivation of liberty claims to proceed. The court also allowed Defendants’ counterclaims for defamation and international interference with contract relations to proceed. However, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s allegation that Defendant Guidance violated the FCA by failing to provide students with contracted flight hours, as well as dismissing Plaintiff’s intentional interference with contractual relations claims against Defendant Morgan and YCC due to his lack of a valid contractual relationship with NorthAire Aviation, an alternative flight training school he tried to work for and attend.
Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Veterans & USERRA; Practice of Higher Education Law; Veterans Discrimination; Faculty & Staff
Breaker v. Bemidji State University (Minn. App. June 12, 2017)
Opinion reversing the district court’s dismissal of the action under the doctrine of res judicata. Appellant, a former faculty member at Bemidji State University, sued the University in 2011 for violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) when it refused to reinstate him to his former position after he returned from active military duty. The district court dismissed Appellant’s suit and the appeals court affirmed. Here, Appellant has again sued the University for violating USERRA based on the same factual allegations he used to support his claim in 2011. This time, however, Appellant asserts that his claims would have been barred in 2011 due to sovereign immunity and that state legislation implemented after his first compliant was dismissed precluded the district court from dismissing his claim based on res judicata. The appeals court agreed, finding that, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Congress lacked authority to abrogate state sovereign immunity for USERRA claims in state court and, therefore, sovereign immunity barred private damages actions against state employers for USERRA violations until Minnesota waived its immunity after Appellant’s first complaint was dismissed. Thus, Appellant lacked a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claims in his first suit.