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Kovacevich v. Kent State Univ.

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

December 9, 1999, Argued ; August 25, 2000, Decided ; August 25, 2000, Filed

No. 98-3678

Opinion

 [*812]  [***2]   NATHANIEL R. JONES, Circuit Judge. This appeal follows a lengthy employment discrimination trial pitting a long-time professor at Kent State University ("KSU") against the University. After a trial and jury verdict in the plaintiff's favor on sex and age discrimination [**2]  claims, the district court granted KSU's motion for judgment as a matter of law on these claims. The plaintiff appeals this decision, as well as other district court rulings in KSU's favor. We AFFIRM in part, and REVERSE in part.

After receiving her doctorate from KSU, Plaintiff-Appellant Dorothy Kovacevich began teaching at KSU's College of Education in 1973 as a non-tenure track, one-year Instructor. In 1975, at the age of 46, she was hired into a tenure-track position, working as an assistant professor in the College of Education's Special Education department. KSU offered her a $ 14,000 academic year salary, and she accepted. Her duties included teaching and coordinating the field experience of Special Education student teachers. In 1978, Kovacevich was granted tenure. Her fortunes at KSU over the ensuing fifteen years--and in particular her history of promotion and salary increases over those years--are the subject of this litigation.

 [***3]  1) Discrimination in Promotion

Kovacevich first contends that KSU discriminated against her by promoting her at a snail's pace due to her gender. Before considering her situation in particular,  [**3]  we will review KSU's general procedures for granting promotions.

KSU is organized into six academic colleges, which are divided into separate departments. There are three ranks of tenure-track professor positions at KSU: assistant, associate and full professor. A series of collective bargaining agreements governs the process and criteria used to grant promotions. Promotion applications proceed through a layer of reviews by KSU faculty and administrators. The first reviewing committee is the Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC), comprising faculty members of an applicant's own department who are elected for several-year terms. The FAC issues a recommendation to the chairperson of the department, who makes her own recommendation after independently reviewing the application. The College Advisory Committee (CAC), comprising faculty members from the entire college, performs the next review. The CAC makes a recommendation to the dean of the college in which the department belongs, and the dean makes another independent review and recommendation. Next, the University Advisory Board (UAB), made up of professors from across the university, reviews the application and makes a recommendation to [**4]  the KSU provost. The provost then makes a recommendation to the president, 1 who makes a recommendation to the KSU Board of Trustees based on an assessment of the complete application, including all the recommendations. At any level, a favorable recommendation moves the application to the next level. Any unfavorable recommendation ends the process, barring a successful "appeal" at the next level. In sum, the levels of review are as follows:  [***4]  

1) Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC)

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224 F.3d 806 *; 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 21436 **; 2000 FED App. 0281P (6th Cir.) ***; 83 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1306; 79 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P40,387; 55 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 728

DOROTHY KOVACEVICH, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. KENT STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant-Appellee.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  As Corrected September 13, 2000.

Prior History: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 95-00626. Donald C. Nugent, District Judge.

Disposition: AFFIRMED in part, and REVERSED in part and REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

district court, prima facie case, promotion, recommendation, matter of law, summary judgment, salary, sex, ultimate question, immunity, merits, discriminated, abrogation, reasons, appellate court, awards, disparate impact, discriminatory, faculty, parties, cases, preponderance of evidence, disparate treatment, protected activity, retaliation, statistical, revisit, gender, causal relationship, sufficient evidence

Civil Procedure, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Waiver & Preservation of Defenses, Constitutional Law, State Sovereign Immunity, General Overview, Remedies, Damages, Monetary Damages, Federal & State Interrelationships, State Immunity, Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Federal & State Interrelationships, Federal Judicial Limitations, Preliminary Considerations, Governments, Native Americans, Authority & Jurisdiction, Bill of Rights, State Application, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Religious Freedom, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Legislation, Enactment, Federal Government, US Congress, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Gender & Sex, Labor & Employment Law, Gender & Sex Discrimination, Employment Practices, Compensation, Discriminatory Employment Practices, Benefits & Working Conditions, ADEA Enforcement, Wage & Hour Laws, Equal Pay, Pensions & Benefits Law, Equal Pay Act, Defenses, EEOC & State Actions, Remedies, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Legal Entitlement, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Standards of Review, Burdens of Proof, Federally Assisted Programs, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII Discrimination, Statute of Limitations, Disparate Treatment, Extensions & Revivals, Disparate Impact, Evidence, Selection Procedures, Neutral Factors, Actionable Discrimination, Pleadings, Amendment of Pleadings, Conforming Pleadings to Evidence, Evidence, Relevance, Exclusion of Relevant Evidence, Confusion, Prejudice & Waste of Time, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Relevant Evidence, Criminal Law & Procedure, Abuse of Discretion, Evidence, Adverse Employment Actions, Clearly Erroneous Review