University Rejected Retired Professor Because of Age and Retaliation for Prior Discrimination Suit, Federal Agency Says
HOUSTON — The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM), which operates under the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, will pay $450,000 to settle an age discrimination and retaliation suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The settlement resolves the charge of a former professor and dean of the College of Business Administration (CBA), Dr. Van McGraw, who claimed that the university rejected him for employment repeatedly because of his age, and because he had filed an earlier age discrimination suit against the university.
According to the EEOC’s suit (No. 05-1158 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division), the university rejected McGraw for numerous positions, including associate dean of the CBA and faculty posts, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). McGraw had previously worked for the university for 37 years. He retired in 1989 as dean of the CBA, and was immediately rehired as a professor in the Department of Management and Marketing (DMM). ULM terminated McGraw in 1996 under a then-new board policy regarding the reemployment of retirees.
McGraw, and another long-term employee of the university, Dr. Dwight D. Vines, who had served as president of the university and a professor, filed EEOC charges alleging age discrimination. The EEOC filed suit based on those charges in 1998. The federal litigation ended in 2001.
Beginning in 2002, with the lawsuit over, McGraw applied for numerous positions with the university. The head of the DMM recommended McGraw to the dean of the CBA, Dr. Kenneth Clow. According to sworn testimony, when Clow discussed McGraw’s candidacy with the provost of the university, Dr. Stephen Richters, he told Clow that the university administration would not hire McGraw “because of the lawsuit.” Clow later gave sworn statements to the EEOC confirming this statement by Richters. According to sworn testimony, Clow informed the department head that, per Provost Richters, McGraw could not be hired “because of the lawsuit.” The department head subsequently informed McGraw of the statement. The department head informed McGraw that at a committee meeting, a university official made a statement to the effect that McGraw had had his chance, and it was time for someone younger. McGraw later filed his second charge with the EEOC, alleging age discrimination and retaliation in violation of the ADEA. After an unsuccessful attempt to settle the case, the EEOC filed suit in 2005.
During the litigation, numerous witnesses gave sworn deposition testimony, and extensive documentary evidence was exchanged. In 2007, the university filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which the Court denied, finding sufficient evidence to permit a jury to conclude that the university violated federal law. The university filed an appeal with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that ULM was immune from suit by the EEOC under the principle of sovereign immunity in the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Circuit denied that appeal in 2009, upholding the trial court’s prior rejection of the university’s arguments.
Under the settlement, set forth in a consent decree approved by Federal District Judge Robert James on April 19, besides the monetary award to McGraw and his private attorneys, the board will implement significant policy changes, annually train its supervisory and managerial employees concerning discrimination, and submit ten semi-annual reports to the EEOC over the five-year duration of the decree.
The board also agreed to issue a policy that applicants are to be considered without regard to their retiree status, reversing the policy under which McGraw had been fired in 1996. The university will also issue detailed written policies on unlawful retaliation, the procedures for employees and applicants to complain, and the consequences to officials found to have engaged in retaliation. The board will revoke a policy which threatens to punish employees who make complaints of retaliation later found to be false. Under the decree, all of the university’s supervisory and managerial personnel, including the president, provost, all deans and the human resources director, will be required to attend annual training on discrimination and retaliation.
“This dispute started some 14 years ago,” said McGraw. “I loved ULM for all 37 years I was there, and still do. It was gratifying to have a positive effect on the lives of my students. I am very grateful that the EEOC and my private attorneys pursued this matter for so long on my behalf. I especially appreciate the tireless and thoughtful work that the EEOC’s lead attorney, Gregory T. Juge, did for me over the course of more than 12 years. I feel that some measure of justice has been achieved, especially concerning the positive changes the university and the board are going to make, which will benefit others in the future and prevent further discrimination.”
Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, who is in charge of all EEOC litigation in Louisiana, said, “This is a very significant settlement, in terms of both the monetary and non-monetary aspects. My lead attorney, Greg Juge, did exceptional work on this case. The EEOC is pleased to have helped Dr. McGraw obtain relief for his substantial damages. The policy changes and other internal actions which the university and the Board have agreed to as a part of the settlement are very important for the broader public interest and should have long-lasting effects throughout all the universities in the system.”
Other universities which operate under the board’s system include Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.