Court Case: Lavalli v. Texas State University-San Marcos

Case History

Kari Lavalli, former Assistant Professor of Biology at Texas State University-San Marcos (formerly Southwest Texas State University) sued the institution for sex discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment and retaliation for complaining about the sex discrimination under Texas state laws. Lavalli claimed that the university retaliated against her by refusing to renew her employment contract after she expressed concerns about alleged discriminatory practices at the university.

Texas State hired Lavalli in 1998 as a tenure-track assistant professor. While at the university, Lavalli accumulated a good record of teaching, scholarship and service. Throughout the course of her employment at the institution, she noticed that there was a lack of diversity among recent hires. In particular, Lavalli was concerned that less qualified male applicants were given priority over female applicants, and were interviewed and hired at a greater rate in the biology department. Lavalli expressed her concerns to the chair of the biology department, as well as to administrators at Texas State.

Lavalli claimed that both her department chair and university administrators became outraged at her outspokenness about such provocative issues. In May 2001, the university offered her a terminal contract for the 2001-2002 academic year. However, similarly situated males in her department received contract renewals that same year.

Upon her information and belief, Lavalli estimated that she was terminated because of her outspoken remarks concerning hiring practices at the university. She also believed that the university used noncollegiality as an excuse to fire her for exercising her freedom of speech.

In 2002, Lavalli filed suit against the university in Texas state court. The parties reached a confidential settlement in December 2004.

Key Case Issues

Sex discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment and retaliation for complaining about the sex discrimination in violation of Texas state laws.