Alert: important school case: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar

26 Mar

School Board News is reporting in the article, School boards encourage Supreme Court to protect employers from unnecessary lawsuits:

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has filed an amicus brief in an employment case asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to hamper school districts’ abilities to discipline or fire employees.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar to be heard on April 24, 2013, the Supreme Court will determine whether an employee can win a discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act if the employer had legitimate business reasons for taking the adverse action.

The case is particularly relevant to public schools, collectively the largest employer in the country. NSBA is asking the Supreme Court to rule that the employee must prove that the employer took adverse action solely out of retaliation for the employee’s prior complaint of discrimination, not because of other legitimate reasons, a standard known as the “but for” test. Under the lower court ruling in the case, an employer must prove that they would have taken the action regardless of any desire to punish the employee for making charges of discrimination. The case centers on an employee of the University of Texas medical school who alleged that the chair of his department blocked his attempt to get a job at a hospital in retaliation for a claim of discrimination the employee had lodged against a supervisor.

“It is important that schools have the ability to discipline or terminate staff for legitimate reasons without fear of costly lawsuits that shift funds away from the classroom,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.

“The High Court should not permit anti-discrimination laws to be used as a shield by substandard employees seeking to invalidate legitimate employer action for poor performance,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “This standard would result in many more lawsuits….

Here is the brief on the case from Oyez Project:



Location: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Facts of the Case 

Dr. Naiel Nassar, who is of Middle Eastern descent, was hired by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in 1995 to work at the Amelia Court Clinic (Clinic), which specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment. After three years there, he left to pursue additional training and returned in 2001 as an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases and Associate Medical Director of the Clinic. His immediate supervisor at the Clinic was Dr. Philip Keiser, whose supervisor at UTSW was Dr. Beth Levine. After being hired in 2004, Levine immediately began inquiring into Nassar’s productivity and billing practices. In 2005, after interviewing a candidate who was of Middle Eastern descent, Levine stated in Nassar’s presence, “Middle Easterners are lazy.” In 2006, after hiring the candidate, Levine made a similar statement in Keiser’s presence. Keiser informed Nassar of these comments as well as the fact that Levine scrutinized Nassar’s productivity more than any other doctor. Around this time, Nassar applied for a promotion that Levine actively undermined. In 2006, Nassar resigned from the UTSW faculty and cited Levine’s harassment and the creation of an unhealthy work environment in his resignation letter. Nassar resigned with the understanding that he would be offered a position at the Amelia Court Clinic unaffiliated with the UTSW, but the Clinic was forced to withdraw its offer after heavy opposition from the UTSW faculty, who have an agreement with the Clinic regarding positions to be filled by faculty doctors.

In 2008, Nassar sued UTSW under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and argued that UTSW had constructively discharged and retaliated against him. The jury found in favor of Nassar and awarded him back pay and compensatory damages. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the retaliation claim but insufficient evidence to support the claim of constructive discharge.


Does the retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 require a plaintiff to prove that an employer would not have taken an action but for the existence of an improper motive, or does the provision require only proof that the employer had mixed motives for taking an action?


Case Basics

Docket No. 



University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center


Naiel Nassar


Friday, January 18, 2013


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Cite this Page

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER v. NASSAR. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 March 2013. <>.

More on this case later.

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One Response to “Alert: important school case: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar”


  1. Logarchism » Supreme Court Watch: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar - April 24, 2013

    […] Alert: impor­tant school case: Uni­ver­sity of Texas South­west­ern Med­ical Cen­ter v. Nassa… […]

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