Emeldi v. University of Oregon

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 03-02-2012
  • Case #: 10-35551
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judge Paez; Dissent by Circuit Judge Fisher
  • Full Text Opinion

To establish a prima facie case of retaliation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a plaintiff who does not have direct evidence of retaliation must show that (1) the plaintiff engaged in protected activity, (2) the plaintiff suffered an adverse action, and (3) there was a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action.

Monica Emeldi, a former Ph.D. student at the University of Oregon (the “University”), sued the University for retaliation after she complained about gender-based bias in the Ph.D. program and gender discrimination by her dissertation chair, Robert Horner. Emeldi appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the University. The Ninth Circuit held that Emeldi established a prima facie case of retaliation. First, Emeldi’s complaint to administrators about institutional bias against women and about Horner’s favoring of male students over female students constituted protected activity under Title IX. Second, Horner’s resignation after being informed of Emeldi’s complaints satisfied the adverse action requirement, because Emeldi was unable to complete her Ph.D. without a dissertation chair. Third, the short period of time between Emeldi’s complaints and Horner’s resignation established a causal link between the protected activity and adverse action. Emeldi discussed her problems regarding Horner with University administrators, who then informed Horner of their conversation with Emeldi. A few weeks later, Horner resigned. There was also evidence that Horner showed signs of discrimination by giving males more attention and avoiding eye contact with Emeldi. The Court held that a jury could find that Emeldi produced non-speculative evidence of a causal link between her protected activity and Horner’s resignation. Though the University did show non-retaliatory reasons for Horner’s resignation, Emeldi proffered evidence that such reasons were pretextual, as shown by proof of unequal opportunities between male and female students, and Horner’s failure to help Emeldi find a replacement chair. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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