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PRESS RELEASE
4-20-10

University Of Louisiana At Monroe To Pay $450,000 To Settle EEOC Age Discrimination And Retaliation Suit

University Rejected Retired Professor Because of Age and Retaliation for Prior Discrimination Suit, Federal Agency Says

HOUSTON The University of Louisiana at  Monroe (ULM), which operates under the Board of Supervisors of the University of  Louisiana System, will pay $450,000 to settle an age discrimination and  retaliation suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission  (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The  settlement resolves the charge of a former professor and dean of the College of  Business Administration (CBA), Dr. Van McGraw, who claimed that the university  rejected him for employ­ment repeatedly because of his age, and because he had  filed an earlier age discrimination suit against the university.

According to the EEOC’s suit (No. 05-1158 in U.S.  District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division), the university  rejected McGraw for numerous positions, including associate dean of the CBA and  faculty posts, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act  (ADEA). McGraw had previously worked for  the university for 37 years. He retired  in 1989 as dean of the CBA, and was imme­diately rehired as a professor in the  Department of Manage­ment and Marketing (DMM).  ULM  terminated McGraw in 1996 under a then-new board policy regarding the  reemployment of retirees.

McGraw, and another long-term employee of the university, Dr. Dwight D. Vines, who had  served as president of the university and a professor, filed EEOC charges alleging  age discrimination. The EEOC filed suit  based on those charges in 1998. The federal  litigation ended in 2001.

Beginning  in 2002, with the lawsuit over, McGraw applied for numerous positions with the university. The head of the DMM recommended McGraw to the  dean of the CBA, Dr. Kenneth Clow. According  to sworn testimony, when Clow discussed McGraw’s candidacy with the provost of  the university, Dr. Stephen Richters, he told Clow that the university  administration would not hire McGraw “because of the lawsuit.” Clow later gave sworn statements to the EEOC confirming  this statement by Richters. According to  sworn testimony, Clow informed the department head that, per Provost Richters,  McGraw could not be hired “because of the lawsuit.” The department head subsequently informed  McGraw of the statement. The department  head informed McGraw that at a committee meeting, a university official made a  statement to the effect that McGraw had had his chance, and it was time for  someone younger. McGraw later filed his  second charge with the EEOC, alleging age discrimination and retaliation in  violation of the ADEA. After an  unsuccessful attempt to settle the case, the EEOC filed suit in 2005.

During the litigation, numerous witnesses gave sworn  deposition testimony, and extensive documentary evidence was exchanged. In 2007, the university filed a motion to dismiss  the suit, which the Court denied, finding sufficient evidence to permit a jury  to conclude that the university violated federal law. The university filed an appeal with the U.S.  Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that ULM was immune from suit by the EEOC under  the principle of sovereign immunity in the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Circuit denied that appeal in 2009,  upholding the trial court’s prior rejection of the university’s arguments.

Under the settlement, set forth in a consent decree  approved by Federal District Judge Robert James on April 19, besides the  monetary award to McGraw and his private attorneys,  the board will implement significant policy changes, annually train its  supervisory and managerial employees concerning discrimin­ation, and submit ten  semi-annual reports to the EEOC over the five-year duration of the decree.

The board also agreed to issue a policy that applicants  are to be considered without regard to their retiree status, reversing the  policy under which McGraw had been fired in 1996. The university will also issue detailed  written policies on unlawful retaliation, the procedures for employees and  applicants to complain, and the consequences to officials found to have engaged  in retaliation. The board will revoke a policy  which threatens to punish employees who make complaints of retaliation later  found to be false. Under the decree, all  of the univer­sity’s supervisory and managerial personnel, including the president,  provost, all deans and the human resources director, will be required to attend  annual training on discrimination and retalia­tion.

“This dispute started some 14 years ago,” said  McGraw. “I loved ULM for all 37 years I was there, and still  do. It was gratifying to have a positive  effect on the lives of my students. I am  very grateful that the EEOC and my private attorneys pursued this matter for so  long on my behalf. I especially  appreciate the tireless and thoughtful work that the EEOC’s lead attorney,  Gregory T. Juge, did for me over the course of more than 12 years. I feel that some measure of justice has been  achieved, especially concerning the positive changes the university and the board  are going to make, which will benefit others in the future and prevent further  discrimination.”

Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, who is in charge of all EEOC litigation in Louisiana, said, “This  is a very significant settlement, in terms of both the monetary and  non-monetary aspects. My lead attorney,  Greg Juge, did exceptional work on this case.  The EEOC is pleased to have helped Dr. McGraw obtain relief for his  substantial damages. The policy changes  and other internal actions which the university and the Board have agreed to as  a part of the settlement are very important for the broader public interest and  should have long-lasting effects throughout all the universities in the system.”

Other universities which operate under the board’s system  include Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese  State University,  Nicholls State  University, Northwestern  State University,  Southeastern Louisiana  University, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment  discrimination. Further information  about EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.