A jury in the US District Court of Kansas dismissed seven defendants from Emporia State University in a $10 million discrimination lawsuit brought against them by former School of Library and Information Management Assistant Professor Melvin Hale earlier this week.
One day later, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree found in favor of Angelica Hale — Melvin Hale’s wife and also a former SLIM employee — in her Title VII retaliation claim. The court awarded her $1 and, though she was not entitled to recover attorney fees or punitive damages, she can recover her court costs.
The cases stem from a 2015 incident in which a graduate student in the SLIM program found a racial slur written on her notebook and showed Angelica Hale, who then showed her husband. After a lengthy investigation, the university found there was no evidence to show that the slur was directed toward the Hales.
The Hales, neither of whom are employed by the university anymore, filed separate discrimination lawsuits against the university in Fall 2016.
After a trial last week, the court dismissed defendants Jackie Vietti, Judy Anderson, Kevin Johnson, Ray Lauber, Mirah Dow and Gary Wyatt, clearing them of any wrongdoing in the claim brought by Melvin Hale. Further, early this week, the jury returned a verdict for the claim against ESU Provost David Cordle. It granted judgement against Hale’s First Amendment Retaliation claim.
“The court orders that (Melvin Hale) recovers nothing, the action is dismissed on the merits, and the defendants ... recover costs from the plaintiff,” reads the official judgement.
Hale alleged that ESU and SLIM’s “termination” of him was illegal.
In the case against Cordle, the jury indicated Melvin Hale had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Cordle’s decision to not renew his contract at ESU was an adverse employment action against Hale. However, it did not find that Melvin Hale’s complaints about the racial slur was a substantial or motivating factor for Cordle’s decision to not renew his contract.
In Angelica Hale’s case, she has 30 days to submit a briefing addressing whether front pay or reinstatement, and back pay are appropriate. ESU may file a response within 30 days of Hale’s filing.