Court OKs Reverse Discrimination Suit

Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 26

A white female adjunct instructor can sue Lincoln Land Community College for race and gender discrimination because the college’s equal opportunity officer added a black male instructor to the candidate pool, among other “circumstantial” evidence of possible bias, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stems from a 2003 lawsuit by Janine Rudin. In 2002, she was one of more than 100 applicants for a tenure-track position in business administration at Lincoln Land, the Springfield, Ill., two-year college where she had taught as an adjunct for nearly a decade.

A screening committee selected Rudin as one of numerous candidates to interview, and then, in accordance with the college’s hiring policy, the committee sent its list to the college’s equal opportunity compliance officer for review. The compliance officer then added another Lincoln Land adjunct, Paul Hudson, an African-American male, to the interview pool, in consultation with the department’s chairman, Richard Bowen.

After various members of the screening committee interviewed the various candidates, one member of the panel canvassed the committee’s members and compiled rankings of the candidates, rating Rudin second-highest and Hudson second to last. According to the appeals court, the parties dispute whether Bowen, the department chairman, had the committee’s rankings in hand when he recommended that the college hire Hudson, which he did in April 2002. In May, over the objections of Rudin, the college’s Board of Trustees hired Hudson.

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“The fact that Hudson was inserted into the interview pool based on his race, when combined with the other facts and circumstances of this case, is certainly relevant and probative evidence that a trier of fact may consider in determining whether LLCC had the requisite intent to discriminate when it hired Hudson instead of the plaintiff,” the panel said in its opinion.

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