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Judge rules innocuous incident
can’t support retaliation suit
Case name: Farmer v. Troy University, No. 5:17-
CV-70 (E.D. N.C. 08/21/17).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of
North Carolina dismissed a suit against Troy University.
What it means: Title IX protects an employee
from reporting perceived misconduct only when
that employee reasonably believed he was reporting
activities prohibited by the act.
Summary: Sharrell Farmer was employed by Troy
University as a recruiter in its Fayetteville ofﬁce. In
May 2015, he complained to human resources that
the local manager and her assistant had discussed
“penis sizes of black and white men” with a student,
and then tauntingly suggested that the student
exhibit his penis.
According to Farmer, word of his report apparently
got out because unnamed persons subsequently
engaged in retaliation by: (1) disciplining him with
a written warning, (2) suspending him, (3) changing
his schedule to be less favorable than that of other
employees who had not ﬁled discrimination allega-
tions, and (4) ﬁring him a few months later.
Farmer ﬁled a suit claiming retaliation in viola-
tion of Title IX, and the university ﬁled a motion to
The district judge explained that an employee was
protected by Title IX only if he reported activity that
he reasonably believed was prohibited by that act.
The judge acknowledged that the remarks reported by
Farmer were offensive and inappropriate, but ruled
that they were not sufﬁciently physically threatening
or humiliating to constitute harassment under Title IX.
In addition, he ruled that Farmer was not pro-
tected from retaliation because he could not have
reasonably believed that he was opposing anything
prohibited by Title IX when he complained about
the local manager’s conversation.
The judge dismissed the suit.
Judge rules university met
its accommodation duties
Case name: Mack v. Georgetown University, No.
15-793 (D. D.C. 09/27/17).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of
Columbia granted summary judgment in favor of
What it means: Employers are not required to
accommodate an employee by reassignment to her
Summary: Alita Mack [also spelled “Aleta” in the
case] was hired as an executive assistant in the
Georgetown University Department of Public Safety
in February 2014. Her supervisor was Campus Police
Chief Jay Gruber.
Mack asked for 11 accommodations in June
because of her diabetes. Those included a discrete
environment to monitor her blood sugar level, an
area to store her food and medication, and ﬂexibility
to schedule medical appointments.
Those accommodations were put into effect in July.
Ten days later, Mack complained of possible mold
in her workspace. Georgetown discovered a mold
spot and removed it.
A few days after that, Mack submitted another
disability accommodation form indicating she was
suffering from a respiratory illness and requesting
reassignment to another room. For the next few
weeks, the university unsuccessfully attempted to
get more information from Mack’s treating physicians
because she prohibited her doctors from communi-
cating with Georgetown.
In October, Mack again asked to be reassigned to
another location. She was placed on unpaid leave
in late November while the university searched for
a vacant location where she could be transferred.
In January 2015, Georgetown offered Mack a job
as a recruiting coordinator. However, Mack failed
A couple of weeks later, Georgetown extended a
second offer to Mack for a recruiting coordinator
job, and indicated that her failure to accept it by
March 5 would result in her termination. Mack did
not respond, and Georgetown ﬁred her.
Mack ﬁled a suit claiming violations of the Ameri-
cans with Disabilities Act.
The university ﬁled a motion for summary judg-
Mack argued that she was qualiﬁed for the vacant
position of human resources analyst, and the
recruiting coordinator jobs were not equivalent to
her current position. But the judge said the human
resources position Mack had referred to was ﬁlled
before Georgetown completed an evaluation of Mack’s
limitations during the interactive process.
She granted summary judgment in favor of the uni-
versity, explaining: (1) employers were not required
to place a disabled employee in her preferred job or
location and (2) the record was replete with examples
of Georgetown’s good-faith efforts to ﬁnd reasonable