School of Management professor Constance Bagley’s lawsuit against the University is one step closer to trial.
Bagley, who is currently teaching at Yale, filed a case against the University in December claiming that she was not reappointed to her professorship in May 2012 because of discrimination based on gender and age. She also accused her colleague Douglas Rae — with whom Bagley co-taught a course — of repeated acts of discrimination. Her suit targets SOM Dean Edward Snyder and SOM Deputy Dean Andrew Metrick as well.
In a decision issued Tuesday, Senior United States District Judge Charles Haight dismissed four of the 18 counts against the University in Bagley’s original suit. However, Haight also denied a motion filed by Yale in March to dismiss all of the counts, paving the way for the case to move to trial.
“I thought it was a very well-reasoned opinion and am pleased with the result. All I’ve wanted from the beginning is to get the case before a jury,” Bagley said of Haight’s decision. “This is a good milestone along the way to that path.”
Haight’s decision on the motion was accompanied by an extensive discussion of the merits of the University’s motion. Though he did not entirely reject Yale’s argument, he denied the bulk of the claims in the motion.
Haight also dismissed Bagley’s claim of gender discrimination against Rae, Snyder and Metrick under Connecticut’s Fair Employment Practices Act. Haight dismissed Bagley’s claim of age discrimination under the same act and against the same three defendants. However, he left the counts against the University in place.
In addition, Haight dismissed Bagley’s count claiming that Yale committed a “breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” as well as a final count against Rae for defamation.
“[The count] will be dismissed for [Bagley’s] failure to state a defamation claim against Rae with the requisite specificity,” Haight’s decision said.
Still, the decision stated that Bagley has until Sept. 26 of this year to replead the defamation count against Rae. Snyder and Rae declined to comment, while Metrick did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“We are pleased that Judge Haight dismissed four counts of the complaint,” Conroy said. “We will defend the remaining claims at trial.”
According to Matthew Shaltz, an attorney at Schwartz and Perry L.L.P. who specializes in employment law, while a motion to dismiss is a typical response from defendants in such cases, courts rarely grant them. Dismissal only happens, he said, when it is blatantly clear that the plaintiff is making an unfair or unfounded claim.
Schaltz also said gender discrimination suits are generally among the most complex and drawn-out.
“Gender discrimination cases are unique because there is never any direct evidence — a smoking gun,” he said. “It’s all based on circumstantial evidence.”
Schaltz said that the most complex phase of the lawsuit is forthcoming, when both sides will engage in a process of discovery before an eventual trial — but that 95 percent of similar cases end in settlement outside of court.
Still, the University has expressed unwillingness to settle with Bagley.
“We’re defending the suit,” Conroy said “We don’t have anything to add to that.”
Bagley expressed uncertainty about whether or not she would consider settling with the University outside of court.
“At this point, I don’t know,” Bagley said “But I really do think that this has dragged on for more than two years now, and I think that the truth needs to be heard.”
Although Haight’s decision moves the case closer to trial, Bagley and Yale are unlikely to appear before a jury for some time. According to Bagley, the University has requested additional time to respond to her discovery requests for documents related to her employment.
For the time being, Bagley is still teaching at SOM. She taught three courses this summer and is offering a course called Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship, which will be open to MBA students, undergraduates and other graduate students this fall.
But Bagley said she still faces obstacles to her teaching at the school.
“I was disheartened when Metrick insisted I reduce my [fall] course from a full semester course to a half semester course,” she said.
Her term on the Yale faculty, which has been extended because of the circumstances of her suit, expires on Dec. 31.