Recent Decisions - UNIVERSITIES AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING

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Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights

Instructor brought equal protection action against community college alleging unlawful race discrimination. A white instructor had been employed full-time at a community college until her contract expired. Later, the instructor returned to the school, but was only offered a parttime position. The professor sued, claiming racial discrimination, and the college moved for summary judgment. Held: For the college. Though the difference between part-time and full-time status did represent an adverse employment action, the college's financial struggles were a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for hiring the instructor part-time. Patrick v. Bishop St. Community College, 832 F. Supp. 2d 1357 (S.D. Ala. 2011), aff'd, 470 Fed. Appx. 797 (11th Cir. 2012)(unpublished).

Employee appealed grant of summary judgment to university dismissing claim of Second Amendment violation. A university employee who had a valid concealed carry license stored a pistol in his vehicle's glove compartment. After discovering that the employee had a weapon on campus, the university terminated his employment. The employee sued, claiming his termination violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. Held: For the employee. Although the university had the right to control weapons on its campus, that right was a qualified one. As long as the weapon was carried in conformity with the concealed weapons requirements, the University could not prohibit the employee from possessing a weapon in his vehicle. Mitchell v. U. of Ky., 366 S.W.3d 895 (Ky. 2012).

Instructor appealed summary judgment in favor of college dismissing of gender discrimination and retaliation claims. College students filed numerous complaints alleging their instructor was missing class and acting unprofessional ly. While the college was investigating these complaints, the instructor filed an action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The college later terminated her employment. Held: For the college. There was no causal relationship between the teacher's termination and her grievance and the college had valid grounds for termination. Additionally, the instructor failed to establish gender discrimination because she did not show that the college treated similarly situated males differently. Valdes v. Miami-Dade College, 463 Fed. Appx. 843 (1 1th Cir. 2012)(unpublished).

Professor appealed dismissal of claim against university and certain employees claiming violation of due process. A tenure-track professor reported a department chair for using university time and property for his outside consulting business. The professor was then was given a nonreappointment notice and terminal contract, and he sued. Held: For the university and university employees. The professor did not have a property right in his non-tenured position, nor was he deprived of a liberty interest in his non-reappointment. Because the professor did not identify a federal right of which he was deprived, he was not deprived of due process of the law. Phelan v. Norville, 460 Fed. Appx. 376 (5th Cir. 2012)(unpublished).

Christian evangelist appealed dismissal of clami alleging university policy requiring advance notice and permission to speak infringed First Amendment free speech right. The evangelist claimed a university policy requiring nonaffiliated individuals to obtain permission before speaking on campus violated his First Amendment rights and sued the university. Held: For the evangelist. The evangelist's desire to communicate his beliefs through non-violent conversation, literature distribution, and sign displays constituted protected speech, and the university's policy was an unconstitutional restriction on that speech. Additionally, because the university's perimeter sidewalks were traditional public fora, they were entitled to free-speech protections. McGlone v. Bell, 681 F.3d 718 (6th Cir. 2012).

Student sued university and professors alleging racial discrimination under Civil Rights Act of 1964. …