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EEOC Can Sue Public University, Court Rules

(CN) - The University of Louisiana at Monroe is not immune from age discrimination claims brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a former dean whose teaching contract was not renewed, the 5th Circuit ruled.

Dr. Van McGraw served as the dean from 1976 to 1989. When he retired, the university immediately hired him back as a professor. In 1996, the school chose not to renew his teaching contract, citing a new policy preventing it from rehiring retirees on a full-time basis.

For two years, McGraw tried unsuccessfully to return as an associate dean or professor. He filed a complaint with the EEOC, which sued ULM on his behalf for allegedly violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The university moved for summary judgment, asserting immunity under the 11th Amendment.

However, the federal appeals court in New Orleans held that sovereign immunity does not protect the university from ADEA claims brought by a federal agency. The 11th Amendment only protects states from private lawsuits, the court noted, not from lawsuits by the federal government.

"[T]he district court properly concluded that the 11th Amendment did not bar the EEOC's lawsuit against ULM under the ADEA," Judge Clement concluded.

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