Circuit Remands College Porn-Investigation Case

 
     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – University of Texas officials have qualified immunity over portions of a letter accusing them of turning a blind eye to evidence that employees were using university computers to access pornography, the 5th Circuit ruled.




     Cynthia Davis, as an internal auditor at the UT Health Science Center, investigated a complaint that certain physicians were viewing pornography at work.
     She presented evidence that more than 300 employees had accessed pornography, including some material that Davis believed to be child pornography. But as she uncovered more evidence, she claims upper management asked her to return the computers and accused her of botching the investigation. She also claims she received the brunt of physicians’ hostility over the investigation. She asked to be taken off the investigation, saying it created a hostile work environment and forced her to review “repugnant” pornographic material that “denigrated her as a woman.”
     She claims upper management then demoted her to mundane tasks and pressured for her firing. Davis wrote a letter to the center’s president complaining about the management’s alleged pattern of sweeping pornography investigations under the rug and its favoritism toward white males. She resigned in December 2003, fearing that she was in line to be fired. She then sued two of her managers, claiming they retaliated against her for exercising her free-speech right in the complaint letter.
     The district court found that her letter constituted protected speech, but the appeals court disagreed. It said some of the content “clearly relates to Davis’ job as an internal auditor,” while “other parts do not.” Reversed in part and remanded.

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