Court Sides With Professor on Retaliation Claim Against Delaware State

March 22, 2017

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a former Delaware State University professor had produced sufficient evidence to require the university to defend itself on charges that it retaliated against her for bringing a discrimination claim.

A lower federal court had dismissed Millicent Carvalho-Grevious's lawsuit alleging that Delaware State terminated her term as chair of the social work department and then failed to renew her contract in retaliation for her complaints that her dean was sexist. But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in reviewing the lower court's ruling, took issue with the judge's decision to require Carvalho-Grevious to prove that her discrimination complaints were the "but for" reason for the retaliation, rather than a "likely" reason for it.

The Third Circuit panel notes that the other federal appeals courts "are split on" the question of what the standard of proof should be in these sorts of cases, perhaps increasing the chances that the Supreme Court will review the issue down the road.

The panel's ruling sends the case back to the lower court to adjudicate based on the Third Circuit's interpretation of the evidence standard.

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