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SAUNDERS v. GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV.

June 20, 1991

DELORIS M. SAUNDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, Defendant


Louis F. Oberdorfer, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: OBERDORFER

LOUIS F. OBERDORFER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 In this action, Dr. Deloris Saunders, an associate professor at defendant George Washington University (GWU), sues the university for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the D.C. Human Rights Act Statute. Currently before the Court are Saunders' motion for a preliminary injunction and defendant's motion for summary judgment. A hearing on both motions was held on May 31, 1991. It was not, however, possible at that time to resolve all the complicated factual and legal questions raised by them. Accordingly, a temporary restraining order was issued. See Order of May 31, 1991; see also Order of June 10, 1991 (extending the TRO for ten additional days). The parties have since submitted additional briefing, and an evidentiary hearing was held on June 17 and 18, 1991. Accordingly, the motions are now ripe for resolution.

 For reasons to be stated in a forthcoming memorandum, the accompanying order will grant GWU's motion for summary judgment in part and deny it in part, and for the reasons stated below and to be elaborated in supplemental findings of fact, that order will also grant Saunders' motion for a preliminary injunction.

 I.

 The standard for granting preliminary injunctive relief is well-settled:

 
To determine whether an injunction is appropriate the District Court should balance (1) the likelihood of the plaintiff's success on the merits, (2) the threat of irreparable injury to the plaintiff in the absence of an injunction, (3) the possibility of substantial harm to other interested parties from a grant of injunctive relief, and (4) the interests of the public.

 Wagner v. Taylor, 266 U.S. App. D.C. 402, 836 F.2d 566, 575 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (footnote omitted); see generally Virginia Petroleum Jobbers Ass'n v. Federal Power Comm'n, 104 U.S. App. D.C. 106, 259 F.2d 921, 925 (D.C. Cir. 1958).

 II.

 As will be discussed in the forthcoming memorandum on GWU's motion for summary judgment, Saunders does not state claims under § 1981 for retaliation or for failure to renew her contract. She does, however, raise a genuine issue as to all other claims in her complaint, and there is a substantial likelihood that she will succeed on several of those claims.

 To prove that a failure to promote violates § 1981, a plaintiff must prove, first, that the promotion would have created a "new and distinct relation" between herself and GWU and, second, that she was denied that promotion due to racial animus. See generally Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 109 S. Ct. 2363, 105 L. Ed. 2d 132 (1989). Such animus may be proven either directly or through the scheme of circumstantial proof of discrimination developed in the McDonnell Douglas Burdine line of cases. See id. at 2377.

 Saunders has shown a substantial likelihood that she will prove that the Department's decision to defer consideration of her requests for renewal in the fall of 1989 and the spring of 1989 violated § 1981. First, the request for conversion was essentially a request for promotion from a contract position to a tenure-accruing one. That promotion would have created a "new and distinct relation" between the university and Saunders by ensuring her, though not absolutely guaranteeing, tenure and lifetime employment with the university. *fn1" See Patterson, 109 S. Ct. at 2377. Second, according to the evidence currently in the record, Saunders was both eligible and qualified for conversion to tenure track, and there is no credible evidence suggesting that she lacks integrity. *fn2" Third, Saunders is also likely to prove at trial that the justifications offered -- that the enrollment in the program was insufficient and that Dean Leonard should be consulted due to his expertise in policy studies -- were pretexts. *fn3" Finally, evidence in the record suggests discriminatory patterns and motives in some members of the Department. *fn4"

 Because of this evidence of discrimination, Saunders is likely, though not quite so likely, to prove that the Department violated § 1981 in denying her request for conversion in the fall of 1988. She is, however, substantially likely to prove that the justification offered in 1989 for denying her request -- that her publication record was inadequate -- was a pretext for discrimination. *fn5"

 Saunders is also substantially likely to prove that in 1989 members of the Department retaliated against her for filing this suit. In order to prove retaliation under the D.C. Human Rights Act Statute, a plaintiff must show (a) that she was engaged in a protected activity, (b) that the employer took adverse action, and (3) that there was a causal connection between the two. See, e.g., Goos v. Nat'l Ass'n of Realtors, 715 F. Supp. 2, 3 (D.D.C. 1989). Saunders has satisfied all three elements. First, she filed a lawsuit. Second, GWU denied her request for conversion. Third, members of the Department not only levelled serious and unfounded charges of academic dishonesty against ...


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