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A federal appeals court has reinstated a retaliation charge filed by an adjunct professor at a community college who was fired after writing a letter complaining about the college.
In August 2013, Robin Meade, an adjunct professor at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois, wrote a letter to the Chandler, Arizona-based League for Innovation in the Community College, a nonprofit association, in which she complained in part that the college treated its adjunct faculty as a “disposable resource” and “a separate, lower class of people,” according to Thursday’s ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in Robin Meade v. Moraine Valley Community College.
The letter was written under the letterhead of the Moraine Valley Adjunct Faculty Organization, which she headed, according to the ruling.
Two days later, Ms. Meade received a termination notice from the college’s executive vice president stating the league had sent a copy of her letter to the college and that it was “replete with misrepresentations and falsehoods.” Several days later, the college also sent her an email stating any future visit she made to the college would be considered criminal trespass.
Ms. Meade filed suit against the college in U.S. District Court in Chicago, charging it with retaliation for exercising her First Amendment right to free speech and that her contract created a property interest that was revoked without due process.
The District Court dismissed the case on the basis of Ms. Meade’s failure to state a claim. The court said Ms. Meade’s letter did not address matters of public interest and it rejected her due process claim. However, a three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously reversed the lower court’s dismissal of both charges,
In reinstating the retaliation charge, the court said, “The content of Meade’s letter places it squarely among matters that are of public concern. The District Court thus erred in concluding that her speech was not constitutionally protected.”
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