Court Case: Jaureguito v. Feather River Community College

Case adopted 03/07

Case Update 10/12:
On October 19, 2010, the State Personnel Board officially dismissed the whistleblower complaints. Feather River Community College filed a motion to dismiss the federal case and the plaintiff and lawyer filed an appeal.

It is now expected that Jaureguito will win the appeal. In mid-January 2012, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal issued an opinion in Mize-Kurzman v. Marin Community College District that says whether or not a whistle blower is acting for public, private or personal reasons is irrelevant. This means the federal cases that the SPB cited to dismiss the Feather River case do not apply.

Case History

Michelle Jaureguito, former Director of the Upward Bound/ Talent Search program at Feather River Community College, sued the university for retaliation for complaining of sex discrimination in violation of the California Fair Housing and Employment Act.

Jaureguito began her employment at Feather River Community College in August 2000 for a two year full time position as Director of Student Recruiting. In 2002 she was promoted to Talent Search Director, and then in 2003 the two positions were combined and Jaureguito was promoted to Upward Bound/ Talent Search Director. The Upward Bound program helps high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds go to college.

Jaureguito alleges that in July 2005 she received a call from a college residential assistant (RA) at her home late at night. The RA allegedly told Jaureguito that Munoz, an adult employed by FRC in part as a mentor and recruiter for the Upward Bound program, arrived intoxicated and bringing alcoholic beverages to the Upward Bound high school student dormitory. Jaureguito asserts that she was informed that Munoz had made sexual advances to both female RA and female program participants. Specifically, it is alleged that he had “grabbed, fondled and molested two of the female students.” Jaureguito contacted Thein, her boss, to report she had received a call about inappropriate conduct by an employee. Jaureguito and Thein responded to the call and went out to the employee’s home where they allegedly witnessed him consuming alcohol with underage students. Other students reported that night to Thein and Jaureguito that the employee sexually harassed them that evening including inappropriately touching them and making sexual comments.

Thein and Jaureguito reported the incident to the college president and Thein urged the college president to contact the authorities. The next day they provided testimony to law enforcement. According to Jaureguito, the college president warned them to “protect themselves” from possible retaliation from the employee’s father, who was a senior faculty member at the college.

In August 2005, Jaureguito claims that she was informed by the Human Resources Director that she was going to be fired for providing alcohol to minors. It is Jaureguito’s belief that Munoz was the source of the rumors the HR Director relied on in making his decision. Other staff members allege that the HR director tried to pressure them to say that Jaureguito provided the students with alcohol and was drinking with them. Jaureguito alleges that the disciplinary action was not kept confidential in violation of FCR policy. FRC rescinded the disciplinary action but allegedly did not alleviate the damage to her reputation. She claims that she continued to face harassment in retaliation for her reporting Munoz illegal behavior and sexual harassment. Twice she reported the harassment and retaliation. Unable to tolerate the perceived harassment, Jaureguito quit on April 7, 2006.

In November 2006, Jaureguito filed suit against Feather River Community College in state court. A trial date of June 11, 2007 was set for the whistleblower portion of this case. The sex discrimination portion went to trial in January 2008.

In the spring of 2008, the lawyers submitted closing and reply briefs to the California State Personnel Board from the Nov. 2007 trial. The judge in the State Personnel Board hearings was expected to submit a decision to the California State Personnel Board by March 2009. The judge in the State Personnel Board hearings submitted a decision to the California State Personnel Board in August 2009, ruling in favor of all three plaintiffs; including reinstatement, back pay, and damages. The State Personnel Board rejected the judges’ decision, however, and the judge will have to present an oral argument to the board by early November 2009.

Key Case Issues

Retaliation for complaining of sex discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1976.