Heath v. Southern University System, No. 16-30625 (5th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, a math professor at Southern University's New Orleans campus, filed suit against the University, alleging that plaintiff's supervisor engaged in a campaign of harassment that has continued through the filing of this lawsuit. Plaintiff sued the University under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and the supervisor individually under section 1983. The magistrate judge granted summary judgment for defendants. Principally at issue on appeal was whether the continuing violation doctrine required consideration of a lengthier period of time in evaluating the merit of plaintiff's claims. Like the Tenth Circuit, the court expressly recognized that the court's post-National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan test for the continuing violation doctrine has long implicitly acknowledged: Morgan overruled the court's prior cases to the extent they held that the continuing violation doctrine does not apply when an employee was or should have been aware earlier of a duty to assert her rights. Therefore, the magistrate judge erred by using this factor to prevent plaintiff from showing a continuing violation that would enable her to support her harassment claim with conduct occurring more than 300 days before she filed her EEOC charge. The court further concluded that Morgan's disclaiming of an "on notice" inquiry should also apply to section 1983 hostile work environment claims; concluded that plaintiff has alleged a continuing course of conduct dating back to her return from leave in 2011; remanded for the magistrate judge to evaluate the full scope of the allegedly harassing conduct; and affirmed the dismissal of the Title VII retaliation claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on March 14, 2017.