Texas Southern University has lost its motion for partial summary judgment in a race-discrimination suit brought by Patricia Garrison, a white assistant dean of academic support at TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. On Oct. 23, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison of the Southern District of Texas in Houston denied the motion filed by TSU, one of the nation’s historically black universities.
Garrison filed a complaint on June 23, 2011, alleging, among other things, that the university, her employer, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it discriminated against her based on race by withholding her payment for teaching a bar essay course, Ellison writes in his memorandum and opinion. “In light of the evidence Garrison presents, a jury could infer that TSU withheld the $5,000 based on her race. Therefore, TSU’s motion for partial summary judgment must be denied,” he writes.
Garrison alleges that, when Dannye Holley became law school dean in September 2009, he “quickly embarked on a campaign to make [Garrison’s] life extremely difficult” including “micromanaging her work” and refusing to use her proper title and to give her a key to the office for weekend use, Ellison writes.
TSU argued in its motion for partial summary judgment that certain actions Garrison alleged — including nonpayment for the bar essay course — do not rise to the level of adverse employment actions, as required by Title VII, the judge writes: “In its motion, TSU does not contest that these alleged actions occurred, nor does it argue that the alleged actions were not taken with discriminatory intent. TSU only argues that the alleged actions do not arise to the level of an adverse employment action.”
Kathy Butler, a partner in Houston’s Butler and Harris who represents Garrison, welcomes the favorable ruling. “This is a recognition that making decisions based on race can’t be papered over,” she says.
A. Martin Wickliff Jr , a partner in the Houston office of Cozen O'Connor who represents TSU, declines to comment on the pending case.
Holley did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
-- Miriam Rozen