Professor Wins Legal Victory After Getting Fired for Criticizing Microaggressions
“Any reasonable university official would have known that it was unconstitutional to discontinue [Hiers’s] employment because of his speech”
This is the feel-good story of the day. The judge’s reaction is priceless.
Campus Reform reports:
Legal victory for professor fired after criticizing ‘microaggressions’
A University of North Texas (UNT) professor was fired after making a joke at the expense of “microaggressions.” Now, a federal judge decided that this penalty violated his First Amendment rights.
Former UNT math professor Nathaniel Hiers discovered flyers warning about microaggressions left unattended on campus, prompting him to write on his classroom chalkboard “Please don’t leave garbage lying around” with an arrow pointing to the flyers.
Upon becoming aware of Hiers’ joke, the chair of the UNT math department, Ralf Schmidt, emailed the entire department with a photo of the chalkboard and a message stating, “Would the person who did this please stop being a coward and see me in the chair’s office immediately. Thank you.”
After refusing to apologize or take non-mandatory diversity training, Hiers was fired “without notice,” according to the Apr. 2020 complaint filed by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on his behalf.
The school also revoked Hiers’ already-accepted offer of employment for the next semester.
In a Mar. 11 decision, Judge Sean D. Jordan stated that “Hiers has plausibly alleged that the university officials discontinued his employment — that is, punished him — because he did not express honest regret about his views and speech on microaggressions.”
“Precedent establishes that the government violates the First Amendment when it tries to compel public employees to affirm beliefs with which they disagree. Period,” the judge decided.
As a result of the Memorandum Opinion and Order, the lawsuit can continue, with the court denying the university’s motion to dismiss Hiers’ allegations of First Amendment retaliation. The court also denied qualified immunity to the UNT administrators involved.
“Any reasonable university official would have known that it was unconstitutional to discontinue [Hiers’s] employment because of his speech,” Judge Jordan said regarding the denial of qualified immunity.
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We are in bad shape when people are accused of aggressions so small you can only see them with a magnifying glass.
Those are Pico-aggressions. As opposed to Alvarado aggressions.
I don’t think he was joking, not that it matters. Good for him for suing.
From the document linked, it seems that Hiers is far from “winning” this lawsuit — the decision seems to strike five of his claims of damage, but permit all the others in his complaint, contrary to what the university wanted.
It’s dismissed without prejudice, meaning he can amend his complaint for those claims and re-file. It’s a minor setback, sure, but it won’t stop him from getting his pound of flesh from the university.
“…any reasonable university official…”
Do they exist?
If they do exist they are being silenced.
It doesn’t matter. The “reasonable university official” is like the “reasonable man”; he may not exist, but the law supposes him.
Hiers hasn’t won yet, but this is a major victory on the way to winning; the university now has to put up a defense, and it’s hard to see what that might be.
‘Reasonable University Officials’ certainly don’t exist @ Oberlin College. I doubt they exist here, either.
I think he can win this easily once it goes to court. Look for the university to push hard to settle at this point…however, I hope he doesn’t settle so the admins can be ultimately held responsible.
One other note: these are incredibly stupid admins. They could have waited out his contract, which was likely one year or less, and avoided any evidence that would have allowed this claim to survive.
The fact that their arrogance and self-righteousness led to immediate termination without pay is going to cost them a ton.
I’ve seen ridiculous events such as these happen at my own institution and the weasels around here are smarter:
1. They always offer the person the rest of their remaining contract with pay and the opportunity to resign. Everyone takes this because they want to be able to find a job elsewhere without that blemish of termination on their employment record.
2. They put every lawyer in the state relevant to matters of employment in higher ed on retainer so they can’t be used to sue them.
They haven’t seen the light @ Oberlin, so…….