MSU prevails on discimination and retaliation claim, despite admitting bias
Michael Dybas sued Michigan State, alleging that he was wrongfully passed over for a tenured position in the Engineering Department because of his gender. He also argued that MSU retaliated against him, in response to his complaint, by reducing his lab space. The trial court refused to grant summary disposition, in part because the University admitted that the Department Chair initially controlling the hiring process was improperly giving preference to female candidates.
The Court of Appeals dismissed Dybas' case, however, concluding that the lower court was mistaken in determining that a question of fact existed about Dybas' allegations. The Court pointed out that Dybas was merely a candidate for the position and that in order to make the University's admitted gender bias actionable, he needed to prove that he was "reasonably likely" to receive substantial consideration for the position.
Relying on testimony from various University officials, the Court concluded that Dybas did not qualify as one of the more qualified candidates for the job, and therefore could not prove that he was denied it on the basis of his gender: the University officials pointed to his academic background, his lack of math and engineering teaching experience, and the fact that he had been disciplined for assaulting a student, to support the University's claim that he was not a realistic candidate for the job. They also noted that the University had taken steps to remediate the initial gender bias incorporated into the job search. Lastly, it concluded that reducing his lab space, arguably in response to other valid pressures, did not constitute an "adverse employment action" under the law.