Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

Freyd v. University of Oregon, No. 19-35428 (9th Cir. 2019)(appeal pending)

On September 30, 2019, the AAUP filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Professor Jennifer Freyd, who sued the University of Oregon (UO) for pay discrimination based on significant pay disparities with male faculty members. The district court had dismissed the suit based, in part, on findings that Dr. Freyd and her male colleagues did not perform equal work, and that the reasons for the pay differentials did not have a disparate impact on women. AAUP’s amicus brief provides an overview of gender-based wage discrimination in academia, explains that the common core of faculty job duties of teaching, research, and service are comparable, and rebuts the finding of the district court that the pay differentials were justified.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, et al.; R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, et al.; Altitude Express, Inc., et al. v. Zarda, Nos. 17-1618, 17-1623, 18-107 (2019)

AAUP joined an amicus brief prepared primarily by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (and joined by other civil rights organizations) that was filed in the Supreme Court of the United States arguing that LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  The brief involves three separate cases that have been consolidated by the court arising from the termination of employees based on their LGBTQ status. The amicus brief argues that workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people is discrimination “because of … sex” and therefore is prohibited by Title VII.  A decision from the court is expected by June 2020.

Buchanan v. Alexander, No. 18-30148 (5th Cir. March 22, 2019)

On March 22, 2019, the Fifth Circuit issued a decision finding that professor Teresa Buchanan’s termination for her classroom use of profanity and discussion of sex did not violate her First Amendment right to freedom of speech. While the court acknowledged that certain classroom speech is protected by the First Amendment, the court held that Buchanan’s speech was not protected as it did not serve an academic purpose.

Nassar v. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 570 U.S. ____, 133 S. Ct. 2517 (2013).

In this case the Supreme Court limited the standard of proof in retaliation cases under Title VII (the nation’s primary anti-discrimination law) to the narrower “but for” causation standard.  While this ruling benefits employers and was contrary to the position argued by the AAUP in an amicus brief it is a relatively modest change in the burden of proof in such cases.

Lewis v. City of Chicago, 130 S. Ct. 2191 (2010)

The petitioners, unsuccessful applicants for firefighter positions, filed suit alleging that the City of Chicago’s practice of selecting only applicants who scored 89 or above on a written examination had a disparate impact on African-Americans in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, 555 U.S. 271 (2009)

Petitioner Vicky Crawford reported that her manager made sexually explicit remarks and gestures towards her; she was later terminated. At issue was whether Title VII protections against retaliation extended to an employee who spoke out about discrimination not on her own initiative, but in answering questions during an employer's internal investigation.

Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee, 555 U.S. 246 (2009)

The petitioners alleged an inadequate response by an elementary school to student-on-student sexual harassment, raising both Section 1983 and Title IX claims.  The United States Supreme Court  determined whether a student who brings a lawsuit for sexual harassment under Title IX can also bring a constitutional claim for denial of equal protection under the federal statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983 

Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture, 553 U.S. 591 (2008)

Petitioner Anup Engquist, a former employee of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, angered her supervisor by reporting his abusive behavior to superiors.  The supervisor retaliated by arranging a restructure within the Department that resulted in Engquist’s discharge.

Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, 554 U.S. 84 (2008)

Former employees sued Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, alleging that the employer's method of reducing its workforce disparately impacted the employees based on their ages. The employer had its managers rate the employees based on performance, flexibility, and critical skills, with the statistically improbable result that 30 of the 31 employees who were laid off were at least 40 years of age.  

Smith v. City of Jackson, 544 U.S. 228 (2005)

A group of older police officers, filed suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act("ADEA")  claiming that they were adversely affected by a pay raise because of their age. The issue before the Court was whether employees can sue employers under the ADEA for actions or policies that have a disparate impact on employees over the age of 40.

Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721 (2003)

This case raises the legal issue of whether states are immune under the Eleventh Amendment from suits by individuals for monetary damages under the "family leave" provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick family member.

Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356 (2001)

Here, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether the "sovereign immunity" clause of the Eleventh Amendment prohibits public employees, including faculty members, from suing public institutions, including colleges and universities, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Adams v. Florida Power Corporation, 255 F.3d 1322 (11th Cir. 2001)

Former employees of a utility company challenged a corporate reorganization in which more than 70 percent of the employees terminated were at least 40 years old. This case addressed whether the disparate impact method can be applied an age discrimination case under the ADEA.

Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, 528 U.S. 62 (2000)

Consolidating three cases, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether the "sovereign immunity" clause of the Eleventh Amendment prohibits public employees, including faculty members, from suing public institutions, including colleges and universities, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for damages .

Anderson v. State University of New York at New Paltz, 169 F.3d 117 (2d Cir. 1999 )

Dr. Janice Anderson sued the State University of New York alleging a number of claims, including violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.