Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Wins Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School didn’t violate the Americans with Disabilities Act or Rehabilitation Act when it dismissed a student who failed her medical licensing exams, a federal judge in New Jersey has ruled.

To the contrary, “the school took great efforts to accommodate Iris Chin throughout her academic career and was in fact proactive in helping to facilitate her academic success,” U.S. District Judge Jose Linares wrote in tossing out the disability discrimination lawsuit.

The university’s “great efforts” included granting repeated medical leaves of absences and allowing Chin to take the Step-1 exam three times before she passed and to retake the Step-2 exams, which she failed, Linares said. In addition, the associate dean for student affairs met with her dozens of times before the program dropped her.

According to the decision, Chin enrolled at Rutgers in 2004 and began suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts due to bipolar disorder during her first year. She ultimately finished the first three years but was dismissed in 2012.

In throwing out the suit, Linares held that Chin failed to show that her request for additional Step-2-related exam waivers in the form of extra study time would have ensured passing the test.

In addition, he said the school demonstrated that the requested accommodations would have fundamentally altered the nature of its programs by substantially weakening its academic standards.

He noted that no other Rutgers medical student had ever been allowed a waiver of all three policies that Chin wanted waived.

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Athens State University has won a gender discrimination suit by a female faculty member who was twice denied promotion from assistant to associate professor. She won the promotion on her third try.

A federal judge in Birmingham, Alabama, found that Dr. Cathy Woodruff failed to present enough evidence for trial to back her allegations of discrimination and retaliation.

According to the decision, Woodruff joined the Elementary Education Department as a teacher-in-residence in 2000 and was promoted in 2001 to assistant professor.

The promotion committee recommended approval of her 2012 application to become an associate professor but her dean decided that her scholarship was too weak, leading to the provost’s decision not to recommend her to the university president.

In 2013, the promotion committee again recommended her, although with mixed support. However, she lacked support from the former and current deans, all of whom were women, and the provost again didn’t endorse her promotion, “citing his concern over these mixed reviews.”

She filed an EEOC complaint and then sued Athens State under Title VII.

In rejecting the claims, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon said, “Woodruff has produced no evidence demonstrating that sex or gender-based animus factored in the promotion decisions. For example, there is no evidence before the court that the members of the 2013 or 2014 promotion committees made any remarks or statements” indicating a gender-based motive for their decisions.

Kallon wrote, “The only ‘evidence ‘of gender discrimination Woodruff points to is her belief that ‘several men have been promoted outside of the process.’ However, this contention is unsubstantiated and is not based on any relevant specific facts about these men. For example, Woodruff does not know their qualifications or whether, unlike her, they had the support of their deans.”

He noted that six of the 12 faculty members promoted to associate professor from 2009 to 2012 were women, including three in her department.

In addition, he said the university provided a nondiscriminatory rationale for denying promotion, namely the lack of deans’ support and low evaluation scores.

Finally, he said Woodruff hadn’t demonstrated a “causal connection” between her EEOC complaint and the 2013 denial of promotion.

She was promoted in May 2015.

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A Black engineering student expelled from Caribbean University in Puerto Rico after brawling with a professor has lost his Title VI retaliation and defamation suit.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin in San Juan dismissed claims by Pedro Cornelius-Millan against the university and Professor Luis Estades, who teaches at the Ponce campus. A race discrimination claim and related charges had been tossed out previously.

The new decision outlined a series of conflicts between the two men, starting in a 2012 surveying course where “Estades made somewhat critical comments about Cornelius’s work,” leading to an argument in the university library where, “seemingly challenging Cornelius to a fight, Estades asked Cornelius to accompany him outside so they could ‘solve this right now.’ The standoff diffused and the two went on their way,” and Cornelius didn’t report the incidents to university officials.

The next semester, Cornelius unsuccessfully challenged his final grade of B in Estades’ advanced surveying course, the decision said.

About a month later, they got into another public argument in the library, in which Estades allegedly insulted Cornelius; called him a “homosexual,” “little woman,” “crybaby” and “cocky black man”; and “challenged him to go outside because they were going to ‘solve this as men.’”

They fought on the nearby patio, McGiverin wrote.

“Once the scuffle ended and the dust cleared, Cornelius apparently had gotten the better of Estades: the latter’s face was bloodied and his eyes injured, while Cornelius remained virtually unscathed,” McGiverin said.

Campus police ordered Cornelius off campus but he refused to leave and attended his evening class until security guards escorted him away.

At a disciplinary hearing, Cornelius accused Estades of making racially derogatory remarks.

In his ruling, McGiverin said Cornelius “failed to show that the university’s legitimate, nonretaliatory reason was pretextual. The university contends that it expelled Cornelius for violating several school rules during the physical altercation. This is surely a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.

“And even if the university had an incorrect perception that Cornelius, rather than Estades, was primarily responsible for the fight, this incorrect perception is insufficient to demonstrate pretext,” he said.

As for defamation, McGiverin said that “words uttered face to face during an altercation may well be understood merely as abuse or insult, not defamatory statements.”

He also said falsely accusing someone of being gay is no longer automatically considered slanderous.