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Hatcher v. Cheng

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 7, 2014

DR. LAURA J. HATCHER, Plaintiffs,
v.
RITA CHENG, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, DR. KIMBERLY KEMPF-LEONARD, Defendants

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For Dr. Laura J Hatcher, Plaintiff: Shari R. Rhode, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rhode & Jackson, P.C., Generally Admitted, Carbondale, IL; Cassie R Korando, Rhode & Jackson, P.C., Carbondale, IL.

For Rita Cheng, in her individual capacity, Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, Dr. Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, in her individual capacity, Defendants: Ian P. Cooper, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tueth, Keeney - St. Louis, Generally Admitted, St. Louis, MO; Laura E. Hemmer, Tueth, Keeney et al. - Edwardsville, IL, Edwardsville, IL; Mollie Gentry Mohan, Brown & James - St. Louis, St. Louis, MO.

Page 895

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, United States District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. 39). A hearing on the motion was held on July 28, 2014, and the motion was taken under advisement. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss

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is granted, in part, and denied, in part.

A. Facts

Plaintiff Dr. Laura Hatcher was employed with Southern Illinois University (" SIU" ) as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science (" Department" ), in the College of Liberal Arts (" CLA" ) from the fall of 2006 until the summer of 2013. From 2006-2012, Hatcher was a " tenure-track" professor, meaning she would ultimately be considered for tenure at a future date. That process began in October 2011. If approved by SIU, Hatcher would have been tenured beginning in the fall of 2012. If denied, Hatcher's tenure-track professorship would be converted to a term position beginning in the fall of 2012 and ending in May 2013.

Hatcher initially received positive results in the tenure approval process. She received a majority of positive votes for tenure from the faculty in her Department. The Chair of the Department recommended her for tenure. The tenure committee of the CLA voted in her favor.

In November of 2011,[1] however, Hatcher's tenure approval process went awry after a discussion with the Dean of the CLA, Defendant Dr. Kimberly Kempf-Leonard. Hatcher raised concerns, which were relayed to her by female students in the Department, to Kempf-Leonard concerning non-remedied sexual harassment of female students. Hatcher believed the problems were due to the ineffectiveness of SIU's current sexual harassment policy. The female students had confided in Hatcher because she was the senior female faculty in the Department. Kempf-Leonard acknowledged Hatcher's concerns but failed to address them. Just two weeks later, Kempf-Leonard ignored the previous favorable results of Hatcher's tenure approval process and denied her application. Instead, Kempf-Leonard recommended tenure for an allegedly inferiorly-qualified male assistant professor in Hatcher's Department, who received favor of tenure than Hatcher.

On March 1, 2012, Dr. John Nicklow (" Nicklow" ), SIU Provost, sent a letter to Hatcher officially denying her application for tenure. Hatcher's professorship was accordingly converted to a one-year term for the 2012-13 academic year. Hatcher responded by filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on October 3, 2012. Subsequently, Hatcher appealed the denial of her tenure to the SIU Judicial Review Board (" JRB" ), and a hearing was held. Nicklow testified at the hearing and told the JRB that Hatcher had filed an EEOC charge of discrimination. On October 18, 2012, the JRB unanimously decided that Hatcher should receive tenure and overturned Nicklow's decision. The JRB panel's decision made reference to the testimony of Hatcher's colleague, who indicated that Hatcher was subjected to a hostile work environment as a result of her report of sexual harassment against a male faculty member. Hatcher was a mandated reporter under the terms of SIU's sexual harassment policy.

The JRB panel's ruling was forwarded to the SIU Chancellor, Defendant Rita Cheng, on October 29, 2012. Cheng overturned

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the JRB panel's finding on November 27, 2012. Hatcher's employment with SIU terminated in May of 2013.

B. Procedural History

On April 26, 2013, Dr. Hatcher filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 1983, 1988, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging various violations of rights guaranteed under federal law (Doc. 2). An amended complaint was filed on November 26, 2013 (Doc. 22) containing the following Counts:

Count 1: Employment discrimination (sex) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University;
Count 2: Retaliation for activity protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University;
Count 3: Denial of due process rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against Rita Cheng, individually;
Count 4: Retaliation for activity protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against Dr. Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, individually.

( id.). The instant motion to dismiss was filed on December 23, 2013, as to all Counts (Doc. 39). In May 2014, the case was reassigned to the undersigned District Judge from ...


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