United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
SHARON YOUNG, Ph.D. PLAINTIFF
UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS SYSTEM, et al. DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Sharon Young works as an instructor at the University of
Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She brought this action against the
University of Arkansas System, the University of Arkansas at
Pine Bluff, and various individuals working at the University
of Arkansas of Pine Bluff. Her complaint mentions
“discrimination based upon sex, age, disability and
retaliation.” See Document #9 at 1. It
references Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the
Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the First, Fourth,
Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. The defendants move for summary judgment on all
claims. Their motion is granted.
began working at the University in 2010 as an Assistant
Professor of music courses. She applied for tenure in 2015.
Although she received favorable reviews from her
department-level colleagues, the university-wide tenure
committee recommended denial based largely on her lack of
scholarship since joining the University. In April 2016,
Young hurt her foot, although she sustained no significant
injuries. She then fractured it the following August. Soon
afterwards she stopped taking the stairs upon her
doctor's order, and because her regular classrooms were
on the second floor, Young requested a workplace
accommodation. The next business day Young contacted Karen
Baker, the University's ADA Coordinator, who responded
the same day. Baker and others at the University worked with
Young over the course of months to accommodate Young in
various ways, such as providing remote access to the
second-floor classrooms via Skype, allowing her to instruct
small classes out of a vacant office on the music
building's first floor, and making first-floor classrooms
in other University buildings besides the music building
available to her. See Document #13 at 10-11;
Document #19 at 5-6. Young testified in deposition that there
are no accommodations that she has sought from the
University, other than an elevator, that she has not
received. See Document #11-10 at 33.
2016, Young reapplied for tenure. Between the two
applications Young's intervening scholarship consisted of
the acceptance of a presentation for lecture and publication,
although to this day neither has occurred; reminding a
scholarly journal that she had submitted a draft; and
submitting an editorial to an education news organization,
although it was not published. See Document #13 at
4-5. Young says she also presented several local lectures as
well as one in Alabama, although she cites nothing in the
record to support these allegations. See Document
#19 at 3. In response to her application, once again
Young's department colleagues recommended tenure but the
university-wide tenure committee denied it, citing similar
scholarship concerns it had as the previous year. The parties
agree that reasonable, well intentioned people could have
different opinions about the quality of Young's
scholarship. See Document #13 at 7; Document #19 at
4. In spring 2017, the University offered Young an instructor
position at the same salary that she previously made. She
accepted and continues to maintain this position.
should enter summary judgment if the evidence, viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Torgerson v. City of
Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en
banc). A movant meets its “far from stringent”
initial burden if it points out that there is an absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Bedford v. Doe, 880 F.3d 993, 996 (8th Cir. 2018).
Once this is done, the nonmoving party must submit
evidentiary materials showing there is a genuine issue for
trial. Id. at 997. A genuine dispute of material
fact exists only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a
jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511.
Young's complaint lists as defendants “the
University of Arkansas System” and “the
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.” The University
of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is not capable of suing or being
sued as it is a campus and not an institution or corporate
body. See McCullough v. Univ. of Ark. for Med.
Scis., 559 F.3d 855, 860 n.2 (8th Cir. 2009) (dismissing
the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as it is only
a campus); Bass v. Univ. of Ark. at Pine Bluff,
5:12-cv-00286-KGB, 2014 WL 4630459 at *4 (E.D. Ark. Sept. 16,
2014) (dismissing the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as
it is a campus). The defendants point out that “the
University of Arkansas System” is not a campus or a
recognized institution. The Court agrees, and Young does not
attempt to refute this point. Summary judgment is therefore
granted on all claims against the University of Arkansas at
Pine Bluff and the University of Arkansas System.
Young has sued six individuals: Donald R. Bobbitt, President;
Laurence B. Alexander, Chancellor; Andrea Stewart, Dean of
Arts & Science; Jacquelyn McCray, Vice Chancellor;
Michael Bates, Interim Department Chair; and Richard Bailey,
Department Chair. Document # 9 at 1-2. Her complaint does not
mention the capacity in which she sues them. Young has
therefore only asserted official-capacity claims against
these individuals. Baker v. Chisom, 501 F.3d 920,
923-24 (8th Cir. 2007).
the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution bars
suit for damages against a state in federal court.
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169, 105 S.Ct.
3099, 3107, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). The jurisdictional bar
applies when state officials, such as the individuals named
here, are sued in their official capacities. Id.
Young cannot recover damages in this case.
Young's complaint mentions 42 U.S.C. § 1981. This
statute prohibits, in certain contexts, discrimination based
on race. See Williamson v. A.G. Edwards & Sons,
Inc., 876 F.2d 69, 70 (8th Cir. 1989) (per curiam). This
case has never been about race discrimination, however, but
alleged age, sex, and disability discrimination and
retaliation. Young's complaint does not mention race.
Summary judgment is granted on Young's asserted 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981 claim.
Young mentions the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and
alleges that she is more than fifty years old. However, the
ADEA requires a plaintiff to exhaust her administrative
remedies with the EEOC before filing suit. Shelton v.
Boeing Co., 399 F.3d 909, 912 (8th Cir. 2005). Young
concedes that she never filed an EEOC charge of
discrimination with respect to age. Document #13 at 12;
Document #19 at 7. The record shows that she did not do so.
Document #11-8 & 11-9. Summary judgment is granted on
Young's ADEA claim for failure to exhaust.
therefore, are Young's claims for discrimination, based
on disability and sex, as well as retaliation, against the
named individuals in their official capacities. Young says that
the University failed to accommodate her disability and that,
after she requested accommodations and filed an EEOC
complaint, the University retaliated against her by denying
her tenure. These claims fail as a matter of law. The
undisputed facts show that the University did accommodate
Young. On her ADA retaliation claim, Young's prima facie
case fails for lack of causation. Finally, Young's sex
discrimination claim fails because the University has
proffered a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for denying
her tenure, and Young has not demonstrated that the reason
prohibits discrimination against a “‘qualified
individual with a disability' because of the
disability.” Scruggs v. Pulaski Cnty., Ark.,
817 F.3d 1087, 1092 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Bahl v.
Cnty. of Ramsey, 695 F.3d 778, 783 (8th Cir. 2012)).
Discrimination includes “not making reasonable
accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of
an otherwise qualified individual with a disability.”
42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A); see also Kiel v. Select
Artificials, Inc., 169 F.3d 1131, 1136 (8th Cir. 1999)
(“The ADA requires employers to make reasonable
accommodations to allow disabled individuals to perform the
essential functions of their positions.”).
failure to accommodate claim fails because the parties agree
that the University did reasonably accommodate Young.
Although Young's complaint states that the University
failed to reasonably accommodate her, Document #9 at 4, she
admits in response to summary judgment that “[b]y using
the various accommodations that [the University] has provided
to date, Dr. Young has been able to perform the essential
functions of her job, ” Document #13 at 11; Document
#19 at 6. See Kiel, 169 F.3d at 1137 (holding
failure to accommodate claim failed where employer provided
an accommodation that allowed plaintiff to perform the
essential functions of his position). Summary judgment is
therefore granted on Young's failure to accommodate
alleges that the defendants denied her tenure in retaliation
for requesting accommodations and filing a discrimination
claim. For ADA retaliation, absent direct evidence, Young
must show that she engaged in statutorily protected activity,
that her employer took an adverse action against her, and
that there was a causal connection between the two.
Scruggs, 817 F.3d at 1094. If Young meets her
burden, the employer must show a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action. E.E.O.C.
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