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Professor denied tenure files wrongful termination lawsuit

You don't have to be entrenched in academia to know that being awarded tenure is both an honor and an expectation for instructors from elementary school to college. Tenure offers security to teachers, enabling them to make solid financial plans due to a more stable, long-term contract. It can also ensure that they won't be immediately terminated simply for expressing viewpoints that may be in opposition to their employer's.

Most educators become eligible for tenure after working for a certain number of years at an institution, but it isn't given to everyone. To obtain the stability of a long-term teaching contract, these educators usually have to demonstrate that they are of sufficient value to their employers. When there is disagreement over a teacher or professor's contribution, tenure may be denied and the employee may even find himself or herself out of a job entirely. That appears to be the case of a former Los Angeles-area professor who has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the college that fired her.

The plaintiff in the suit, a theater professor at Pomona College, was a Fulbright scholar and has a doctorate degree from Stanford University. In 2011 she was recommended for tenure by her department colleagues. In January of this year, however, she was told that not only would she be denied tenure, but she was being fired from her job. 

The professor claims that her status as the only Latina in her nine-member department is behind her termination. College representatives have countered that the school's staff does not have an ethnic discrimination problem, as demonstrated by a staff in which 30 percent are minorities. It's now up to a judge or jury to decide whether any sort of discrimination factored into the decision to terminate her. 

It's fairly easy for an employer to simply deny claims of wrongful termination. Employees who feel they're victims of such treatment may wonder whether it's worth it to pursue a case. A good first step may be to talk with an attorney with experience in handling discrimination and wrongful termination cases, who can help you decide whether to move on to a new job or to move forward with the claim. 

Source: CBS Los Angeles, "Former Pomona College Professor Claims She Was Denied Tenure, Fired Because She Is Latina," Aug. 20, 2013

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