UNT Prof's Discrimination Suit Might Get Tossed ... For Going After Wrong School

Categories: Legal Battles

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In a 2010 lawsuit filed in federal court, Dr. Tiffiney Barfield-Cottledge claimed the University of North Texas lobbed her application for a faculty position into the dustbin because she's black. And because they were retaliating against her for allegedly griping to the media.

In recompense, she sought a $250,000 settlement and a year's worth of health insurance to cover the psychological harm she says UNT has caused. On Monday, a federal judge tossed the retaliation portion of her claim, and in a month, he could dismiss the whole thing too.

It might be because she sued the wrong school.

In 2006, Barfield-Cottledge was hired as a criminal justice lecturer, assigned to teach primarily at UNT Dallas on a year-to-year contract. By 2009, the branch school had met the requirements to become its own institution, independent of the Denton flagship. It now had sole discretion to make its own faculty appointments. And in the needlessly painful process, all 38 faculty members in Dallas were canned and forced to reapply for their jobs at a reconstituted UNT Dallas -- including Barfield-Cottledge in March 2010. The move rankled UNT Dallas professors who'd invested years into the institution, fearing that even if they were rehired, they might get demoted in the new regime.

Barfield-Cottledge was one of the lucky ones. She was offered another one-year, non-tenure track teaching gig. She accepted it and began lecturing at UNT Dallas for the 2010-2011 academic year. At around the same time, she applied for four different faculty positions. And she didn't get a single one.

The following July, in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Barfield-Cottledge claimed race factored into the school's decision not to hire her for any of the faculty positions. She alleged they were also retaliating against her for speaking to a reporter with the Chronicle of Higher Education, who was researching a story on the en masse firing of the UNT Dallas faculty.

The EEOC dismissed the complaint in August, and in November, she filed suit against UNT in federal court under a provision of the Civil Rights Act that bars employment discrimination. She had already been accepted for tenure track by UNT, her filings indicate, yet she couldn't land a single faculty spot at UNT Dallas. Was it race? Was it the reporter?

Who knows, was the reply of Judge Sidney Fitzwater in his order dismissing the case, primarily because she hadn't provided any actual proof. And there was, of course, one other big problem with her choice of defendants: She sued the wrong one. It wasn't UNT who passed her over, the judge noted. If any institution had discriminated against her, it was UNT Dallas, which now had sole control over its faculty appointments.

He also ruled that talking to the media "isn't a protected activity under Title VII," and dismissed her retaliation claim. According to Fitzwater's order, Barfield-Cottledge has one month to file a brief explaining why the court shouldn't dismiss her case entirely.

Unfair Park reached out to Barfield-Cottledge -- who now teaches at the University of Houston-Clear Lake -- for comment Tuesday afternoon, but she hasn't responded as of this posting. Ditto for UNT general counsel. The State Attorney General's Office declined to comment on an ongoing case.Barfield Complaint Barfield Dismissed


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16 comments
Lacpac2011
Lacpac2011

did you see ads here for craig watkins citizen prosecutor academy?

Lacpac2011
Lacpac2011

did you see craig watkins citizen prosecutor academy?

Skiiblu
Skiiblu

Everyone knows that the original petition is a document filedto meet a deadline.   The responses tothis point are a joke, victimized a person who has some proof of discrimination,are not substantive enough to get past format, and simply not based on enoughto be appropriate. 

What about the case? What are some pertinent questions? For example,

1.     Where are the rest of the documents thataccompany this lawsuit?

2.     Did UNT discriminate against this person becauseof her race?

3.     Why is it that all of the responses here appear tobe one-sided and suspiciously timed which can also be viewed asretaliation?  HMMMM…. 

4.     Does anyone in North Texas care that this is arace discrimination case and that the University of North Texas has a well-knownreputation of race discrimination against Black minorities?5.    Didn't UNT at Dallas legally and officially exist after September 1, 2010? 

6.      Seriouslysociety, wake up and take a reality pill…….

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

A few comments/observations/questions:

1)  Couldn't she find a word processor to file her claim?  If the plaintiff (who was a tenure-track professor) doesn't feel the case merits spending a couple of bucks on computer time at Kinko's, why should the EEOC or a Federal court bother wasting its time?

2)  Doesn't one typically expect a professor in the legal field to know the appropriate spelling of the term "general council" (sic)?

3)  I'm no attorney, but wouldn't it be reasonable to expect a plaintiff to lay out her case, rather than just attaching over 50 pages of random crap (apparently expecting the court to do the legwork of sifting through everything and building a case for the plaintiff)?

4)  Would it not be reasonable to expect a tenure-track professor to have a solid command of written English?

5)  Based on the evidence submitted, I'm at a loss as to understand how this woman managed to obtain a Ph.D.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

She lucked out.  Looks like she now has a much better malpractice claim against her attorney.

OakClifftownie
OakClifftownie

She didn't use an OU law professor to file her lawsuit did she ?

Guest
Guest

Could you post a link to Barfield-Cottledge's petition and the court's dismissal?

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

'Tiffiney' or 'Tiffany' or any other variant is not name once associates with the legal bar.  Maybe another bar swinging from a pole while gyrating to some Journey song.  Nor would I want to go to court while being defended by a Bubba, Gaga, Apple, Dwezil or Newt.

G_David
G_David

I don't trust anybody with a hyphenated last name.  Just pick one already.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

In DISD, hyphenated last names are a way to advertise to whom you are related.

That way, you get special treatment, promotions, etc. within the district.

Montemalone
Montemalone

At least she doesn't dot her "i"s with little hearts.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Just saw the complaint.  Proves the adage about a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.  Unbelievable.  And this woman teaches college?

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