BATON ROUGE – An Orleans Parish woman filed suit against two colleges for breach of contract after she was terminated, even though she was a tenured professor.
Wendy Jean Hajjar filed suit against the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University Agricultural and Mechanical College, Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, the University of New Orleans, LSU's insurance company, Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System's insurance company and UNO's insurance company in the 19th Judicial Court on Oct. 17.
The plaintiff claims she earned her Ph.D. in 1993 in Communications from Purdue University and was employed by UNO in the fall of 1991 as an assistant professor. The plaintiff asserts she attained tenure status in 1997 and became a full and permanent member of the academic body of UNO. She claims she was terminated by LSU's Board of Supervisors and UNO on Oct. 21, 2011 for financial exigency.
The defendants allegedly stated the reasons for Hajjar's termination was the communications track for undergraduate majors and the Masters of Art in Communications was eliminated as part of a post-Katrina reconstruction of programs. However, the plaintiff asserts she is qualified to teach courses that are still offered by UNO.
Hajjar has filed multiple appeals through the system. The plaintiff claims that in 2006, LSU President, Dr. William Jenkins, directed the chancellor to consider the furloughed employee for any position for which they are, by training and experience, deemed by him to be qualified as first consideration to full such position(s), in accordance with all the rules and regulations of the university.
The defendants are accused of violating petitioner's tenure rights, terminating the plaintiff without adequate justification in violation of her tenure rights, singling out the plaintiff for termination without justification, terminating a tenured faculty member while retaining non-tenured faculty members, hiring new adjunct and full-time faculty to teach courses the plaintiff was qualified to teach, failing to assign an alternate assignment, failing to comply with Dr. Jenkins' directive, violating academic privilege and policy, engaging in activities that place financial exigency into question and basing their decision and actions on accurate information.
The plaintiff also asserts the administrative appeal and review processes were conducted by the same people who were responsible for decisions and notification rather than by a committee of plaintiff's peers.
An unspecified amount in damages is sought for loss of salary and income, lost benefits, loss of compensation, reduced productivity, negatively impacted research, damages for bad faith breach of contract, emotional stress and worry, loss and reduction of retirement benefits, legal fees and expenses and severance pay.
The plaintiff is represented by Larry Samuel of Rittenberg, Samuel and Phillips in New Orleans.
The case has been assigned to Division O Judge Wilson Fields.
Case no. 616297.