Supreme Court to Hear Workplace-Bias Case Involving U. of Texas Southwestern

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear a lawsuit involving a faculty member who resigned in 2006 from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center after what he described as workplace harassment and discrimination stemming from his Middle Eastern ancestry.

In 2008 the faculty member, Naiel Nassar, sued the university over the alleged discrimination and accused university officials of later retaliating against him for complaining of the harassment by blocking his hiring at Parkland Hospital.

A federal jury subsequently ruled for Dr. Nassar and awarded him some $3.5-million in back pay and compensatory damages, an amount that was reduced on appeal. The case, which later grew to include issues of legal fees and court costs, was heard last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which largely upheld lower-court findings for Dr. Nassar.

The case accepted by the Supreme Court, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, No. 12-484, turns on the question of whether Dr. Nassar must prove that his adverse employment experience at the university and his nonhiring at the hospital were the exclusive result of an improper motive such as bias, or whether he needs only to demonstrate that that was one of several reasons, in order to receive the damages he was awarded. The lower courts have issued conflicting rulings on that question.

According to Scotusblog, the justices may hear the case in April, on one of the last possible dates for arguments in this Supreme Court term, which ends in June.

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