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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. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  2. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  3. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  4. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  5. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

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