Haegert v. University of Evansville

977 N.E.2d 924 (2012)

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Haegert v. University of Evansville

Indiana Supreme Court
977 N.E.2d 924 (2012)

Facts

John Haegert (plaintiff) was a tenured professor in the English Department at the University of Evansville (Evansville) (defendant), a private university in Indiana. Haegert’s contract obligated him to perform all duties and responsibilities imposed by the university and its policies. Under the contract, failure to do so was grounds for termination. Evansville had a faculty manual that contained a sexual-harassment policy. Sexual harassment was defined as any unwelcome sexual advance if such conduct had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the workplace environment. Haegert had been accused of making inappropriate comments around female students and touching students inappropriately. This behavior resulted in formal complaints and a conversation with the university’s affirmative-action officer. In one particular incident, Haegert walked in on a meeting between Margaret McMullen, the English Department head, and a prospective student, referring to McMullen as “sweetie” and touching her neck and chin. This incident triggered another formal complaint and a disciplinary-review process. A review committee issued a report, concluding that Haegert had violated the university’s sexual-harassment policy. Haegert was given an opportunity to be heard during the process. Evansville terminated Haegert, citing a violation of the sexual-harassment policy. Haegert filed a complaint against Evansville, alleging that it breached its contract with him by rescinding his tenure and that it did not afford him due process. A trial court granted Evansville’s motion for summary judgment. A court of appeals reversed, finding that Evansville did not meet its burden of proving sexual harassment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (David, J.)

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