In Haegert v. University of Evansville, 977 N.E.2d 924 (Ind. 2012), the Supreme Court of Indiana discussed the legal hurdles that a private university had to leap before it could terminate the employment of a professor who was working for the school pursuant to a tenured contract. Apparently, simply saying “Jetson, you’re fired!” may not have been enough.
The Court recognized that cases applying Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or state-law equivalents were not relevant since an employment contract was in place that explicitly provided the terms, procedures, and policies for firing a tenured professor. In this instance, the University was seeking to terminate the professor due to conduct that was characterized as harassment or sexual harassment. The Court found that the employment contract, along with the Faculty Manual, clearly defined what constituted sexual harassment, and that the professor’s conduct fell within such definition. By following the procedures for the investigation and firing, as outlined in the employment contract, the Court held that the university had afforded the professor adequate notice and process regarding the claims against him and his termination.