HENTOSH v. OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY, NO. 13-2037

Decided: September 24, 2014 

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment.

Appellant (“Hentosh”), a white female, was a professor at Old Dominion University (“ODU”) from 2006 to 2013 in ODU’s School of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences. The Appellant’s claims related to her belief that ODU had an unwritten policy of discriminating against whites and in favor of minorities. Hentosh alleged that this practice caused ODU to ignore her complains about an Asian professor. Further, after filing a charge of discrimination and retaliation against ODU with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) relating to her complaint against the Asian professor, Hentosh claimed that it led ODU to deny her application for tenure during the ongoing EEOC investigation. The district court granted ODU’s motion to dismiss Hentosh’s discrimination claim, but denied the motion to dismiss her retaliation claim. The district court subsequently granted ODU’s motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim, and Hentosh timely filed a notice of appeal.

The Fourth Circuit rejected Hentosh’s claim that the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the retaliation claim. The Fourth Circuit stated that Hentosh met the jurisdictional requirement that she exhaust her administrative remedies for her Title VII discrimination claims. Thus, it followed that the district court had jurisdiction over the related Title VII retaliation claim. The Fourth Circuit rejected Hentosh’s argument that her failure to timely file her discrimination claims with the EEOC meant that those claims were never properly before the district court who, therefore, lacked jurisdiction over her related retaliation claims. However, the Court said that because Hentosh relied on an unpublished decision, it was neither controlling nor persuasive because it conflicted with published precedent. Although Hentosh did untimely file her discrimination claims with the EEOC, the Fourth Circuit stated that the district court did have subject matter jurisdiction over the related retaliation claim based on the denial of Hentosh’s tenure application.

Full Opinion

Alysja S. Garansi

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