The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a University petition to review a lower court’s decision in a sex discrimination suit, perhaps clearing the way for one professor’s long-awaited trial.
Ian Maitland, a Carlson School of Management professor, has been trying to get his case to trial for nearly a decade and said he has been fighting for even longer outside of court. A cycle of motions and appeals has so far kept his case at bay.
In 1993, Maitland brought a suit in federal court contesting an earlier sex bias settlement, known as the Rajender II consent decree, which compensated University female faculty in 1980 for alleged discrimination. Maitland has argued the settlement ignored the facts of the case and unfairly paid $3 million.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in Maitland’s favor and provided him the opportunity to have his case heard in federal district court.
University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said in his failed Supreme Court petition University regents should be protected from being individually sued in court and that Maitland’s discrimination charge under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is unfounded because Maitland is male.
Had the University’s petition been evaluated differently by the Supreme Court last week, not only might Maitland have lost, but any other person wanting to bring a similar discrimination case against the University in federal court might have lost the right to do so.
In that way, Maitland has enjoyed at least some victory in his legal quest.
“The 8th Circuit’s holdings in those two matters are now the law of the land for the 8th Circuit,” Maitland said, “so regents don’t enjoy legislative immunity and individuals can file Title VII gender claims against state employers.”
Rotenberg did not return telephone calls Monday, though he had earlier said the likelihood his petition would be heard in Supreme Court was minute.
Maitland said he agreed.
“I don’t know that it was any big surprise,” he said of the decision.
Maitland said he expects to hear from the federal district court judge within two weeks to schedule a trial date. He has pending requests for information and documents from the University but said he is otherwise set to go to court.
However, Maitland said, the University is probably not through with him.
“I think the ‘U’ is waiting for something to come up; they’ll probably find some other reason for delaying it,” Maitland said. “If they fight the discovery request, then that will add some more time. But the way seems more or less clear now – barring the unexpected – for a trial.”
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