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Media Alerts - Hentosh v. Old Dominion University -- Fourth Circuit
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November 3, 2014
  Hentosh v. Old Dominion University -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Title VII Retaliation Claims Are Legitimate Even If Related EEOC Charges Are Dismissed

Area of Law: Administrative, Employment

Issue Presented: Whether the lower court committed reversible error when it granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's retaliation claim after having dismissed the underlying discrimination charges due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Brief Summary: Professor Patricia Hentosh filed suit against her employer, Old Dominion University ("ODU"), alleging that ODU had an "unwritten but widespread" policy of discriminating against whites. Hentosh claimed that ODU discriminated and retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it denied her tenure after she filed an EEOC complaint against the school. The district court granted ODU's motion to dismiss most of the discrimination claims, finding that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction either because the EEOC complaints were not timely filed or because her legal claims were not within the scope of the EEOC charges and therefore had not been administratively exhausted. The district court denied ODU's motion to dismiss the retaliation claim because a retaliation claim may be properly raised for the first time in federal court. Nevertheless, the district court granted ODU's motion for summary judgment on that claim, finding that Hentosh failed to establish the elements of retaliation.

On appeal, Hentosh argued that the district court should have dismissed her retaliation claim instead of granting ODU's motion for summary judgment under Mezu v. Morgan State University, an unpublished opinion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit disagreed. The Fourth Circuit found that Hentosh's understanding of Mezu directly conflicted with Nealon v. Stone, a published opinion establishing that the district court has original jurisdiction over retaliation claims so long as the claim is "reasonably related" to an administrative charge. Furthermore, the Fourth Circuit stated that failing to timely file an EEOC charge does not alone deprive the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. Therefore, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over Hentosh's retaliation claim because it was reasonably related to her administratively exhausted Title VII claims. Consequently, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of ODU.

To read the full text of the opinion, please click here.

Panel: Judges Duncan, Wynn, and Childs

Argument Date: 05/13/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 09/24/14

Docket Number: No. 13-2037

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Roy Lyford-Pike

Counsel: Raymond Lee Hogge, Jr., HOGGE LAW, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellant. George William Norris, Jr., OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Kenneth Michael Golski, HOGGE LAW, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellant. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, Attorney General, Wesley G. Russell, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, Peter R. Messitt, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Ronald N. Regnery, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.

Author: Judge Childs

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée M. Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 11/03/2014 12:16 PM     4th Circuit  

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