Recently, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reinstated a gender discrimination case that had previously been dismissed by a lower court judge without trial.
The case involved a situation at Northern Kentucky University’s College of Business back in the early 2000s, where a female assistant professor sought to gain a promotion with tenure. Andrea Weickgenannt began as an accounting instructor at the university, before becoming a tenure-track assistant professor two years later. At the time, she was supposedly hired due to her valuable practical experience, which included employment at a major accounting firm and doing independent consulting, as opposed to her scholarship. Weickgenannt did not have a Ph.D.
The university’s Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure Committee recommended promotion with tenure, finding that the articles Weickgenannt had penned for scholarship were sufficient to meet the guidelines. Yet the dean and provost did not agree, finding that Weickgenannt’s scholarship work was not up to standard. After an unsuccessful appeal within the university structure, Weickgenannt then sued the university for gender discrimination. In doing so, she identified a male colleague in the Management Department who had been promoted with tenure the previous year, who had the same amount of peer-reviewed, co-authored articles as she did. Nonetheless, the lower court dismissed her claim.
In overturning the lower court’s decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeal noted that, while poor scholarship was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not promoting Weickgenannt or giving her tenure, Weickgenannt sufficiently rebutted the university’s claimed non-discriminatory reason by mentioning a similarly situated male colleague. As such, Weickgenannt had done enough to at least merit the case being heard before a jury. So far, more details about when the case will be heard are unknown.
Both the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, or national origin, among other categories. Typically when someone experiences discrimination, he or she must first do what is called “exhausting administrative remedies” before filing a lawsuit. Attempts to bypass the administrative process and go to court will result in one’s case being dismissed. That means that the individual must report to the Kentucky Commission of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, depending upon whether state law or federal law fits their situation better. That must be done within a specific time period (in Kentucky, 180 days) or the case cannot be reviewed. If the complaint is timely filed, the individual must wait until it is fully investigated before taking further action. If the Kentucky Commission of Human Rights or the EEOC determine that discrimination took place, conciliation or an administrative hearing will be held. If no discrimination is found, the individual still has the right to file a private lawsuit in court. If you believe that you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, contact a Kentucky employment discrimination attorney today.
Miller & Falkner is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.