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Colleges and Universities

Termination Of Employment Claims

Colleges and universities have often been the subject of lawsuits by former employees who have been terminated. Many of these claims arise when an institution refuses to grant tenure to a faculty member. In most educational institutions, teachers and other faculty members are not guaranteed permanent employment when they are hired for a teaching position. The institution generally requires the teacher or professor to achieve certain goals, such as publishing scholarly articles or demonstrating superior teaching skills, within a prescribed period of time, often six to eight years. In state institutions, the process for granting tenure is usually prescribed by statute.

At the conclusion of this time period, an institution reviews the performances of the teacher, professor, or other employee. If the review is favorable, the institution may award tenure to the employee. Although tenure does not necessarily guarantee lifetime employment, it provides considerable protection for the employee from being terminated by the institution. On the other hand, if the employee is denied tenure, he or she will not be retained as an employee of the institution.

More often than not, disgruntled former employees lose their cases when they contest denial of tenure. Many contest the tenure process, while others claim breach of contract on the part of the institution. Additionally, several courts have had to consider whether a college or university has violated the constitutional rights of an employee by denying him or her tenure. For example, in Hendrich v. Board of Regents of University of Wisconsin System, 274 F.3d 1174 (7th Cir. 2001), the complainant claimed that the University of Wisconsin at WHITEWATER had violated her equal protection and due process rights when the school denied her tenure. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied her claims, finding that she had failed to meet the necessary BURDEN OF PERSUASION on these issues.

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