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Fired professor wins one, loses another appeal

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A tenured English professor at the University of Evansville who was fired after an inappropriate interaction with a fellow professor lost his appeal against his co-worker, but his case against the university will proceed.

John Haegert, who had informal complaints noted in his file from female students regarding inappropriate language and touching, approached Professor Margaret McMullan while she was interviewing a prospective student. Haegert said “Hi, sweetie” and touched McMullan’s face and neck in a tickling gesture while she was speaking with the prospective student’s family. She was offended by his conduct. Haegert claimed he was in a happy mood that day because he learned his wife was free of cancer.

A formal complaint was filed, and a review committee determined the behavior violated the university’s no-tolerance sexual harassment policy. Haegert was later fired because of that incident. Haegert appealed to the university board of trustees, which concurred with his termination.  He then filed a complaint against McMullan alleging defamation, tortious breach of his contract, and infliction of emotional distress. He also sued the university, claiming its decision to terminate his employment for violation of the sexual harassment policy was a breach of his tenure contract.

In two separate decisions, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for McMullan, but reversed summary judgment for the university with regards to Haegert’s complaint against the University of Evansville. In John Haegert v. Margaret McMullan, No. 82A04-1008-CT-470, the judges found that the specific statements Haegert believed were defamatory weren’t sufficiently identified by him in his complaint. Also, regarding statements contained in a file kept by McMullan, he failed to show how he was injured by the contents in that file regarding previous informal complaints made by students. Haegert’s termination was based only on the incident involving McMullan as the other complaints were never officially filed by the students. The COA also found that there wasn’t properly designated evidence in the record that McMullan intended to cause Haegert emotional distress.

In John Haegert v. University of Evansville, No. 82A01-1008-PL-369, the appellate court was divided, with the majority finding that the university didn’t satisfy the burden of proof that Haegert had committed sexual harassment in the form of a hostile work environment before terminating his employment.

The majority noted that the university has a zero-tolerance policy, with Judge James Kirsch writing, “One of the problems with the treatment of sexual harassment is the failure to distinguish between assault and trivial behavior. This problem is magnified by zero-tolerance polices such as the one here, where the consequence for any of a range of behaviors can result in the termination of one’s employment.”

The majority remanded for further proceedings, but Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented. She argued that the case is governed by the university’s zero-tolerance harassment and sexual harassment policy, and that Haegert knew a violation of his employment contract was cause for termination.
 

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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