United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
January 16, 2019
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:14-cv-02069).
Richard A. Salzman argued the cause and filed the briefs for
R. Waters argued the cause for the appellee. Yoora Pak,
Elisabeth L. Shu and Robert B. Wallace were with him on
Before: Henderson, Rogers and Pillard, Circuit Judges.
LeCraft Henderson, Circuit Judge.
professor Kemit Mawakana was denied tenure and terminated by
his employer, the University of the District of Columbia. He
sued the University's Board of Trustees, claiming the
University discriminated against him based on race and
violated both the terms and spirit of its contract with him.
The district court granted the University's motion for
summary judgment as to each count of Mawakana's
complaint. Mawakana appealed as to three counts. We now
reverse as to those counts.
2006, Mawakana, a black male, was hired by the University
of the District of Columbia ("University") to serve
as a law professor at the David A. Clarke School of Law
("Law School"). Pursuant to his initial employment
contract, Mawakana was hired as an Assistant Professor for a
three-year period. In 2009, Mawakana's employment
contract was renewed and in 2010 he was promoted to Associate
Professor. In July 2011, Mawakana applied for tenure. There
is no record evidence that Mawakana heard anything about his
tenure application during the 2011-2012 academic year. In
early fall 2012, he was invited to and attended a meeting of
the faculty subcommittee assigned to review his application.
At the meeting the subcommittee assured him that his
application was in good shape. A short time later, however,
Mawakana attended another subcommittee meeting at which the
subcommittee informed him that it had some concerns about his
scholarship. In November 2012, Mawakana was invited to and
attended a meeting with Law School Dean Katherine
"Shelley" Broderick (Broderick), and faculty
subcommittee chairman, John Brittain. At the meeting they
both suggested that he withdraw his tenure application.
Mawakana refused. In February 2013, the subcommittee issued
its assessment of Mawakana's tenure application,
concluding that his scholarship was not worthy of tenure and
recommending that tenure be denied. The full faculty
evaluation and tenure committee reviewed and adopted the
subcommittee's report. Broderick then reviewed and
endorsed the recommendation of the full faculty evaluation
and tenure committee. University Provost Ken Bain
subsequently reviewed and adopted the recommendation of the
full faculty evaluation and tenure committee and Broderick.
Finally, University President James Earl Lyons upheld the
recommendation of Provost Bain. On May 1, 2013, Mawakana
received notice that he had been denied tenure and that his
employment was to terminate effective August 15, 2013.
he was denied tenure because of his race and that the
University had violated a contractual obligation to timely
notify him of concerns regarding his scholarship, Mawakana
sued the University Board of Trustees in the Superior Court
for the District of Columbia in October 2014.  He alleged
statutory race-based discrimination claims and contract
claims. In March 2017, after removing the case to
federal district court and moving unsuccessfully to dismiss,
the University then moved for summary judgment. In March
2018, the district court granted the motion and entered
judgment for the University. Mawakana v. Bd. of Trs. of
Univ. of D.C., 315 F.Supp.3d 189, 194 (D.D.C. 2018). The
district court first held that the University was entitled to
summary judgment on Mawakana's Title VII and D.C. Human
Rights Act (DCHRA) claims because, especially considering
"the heightened deference accorded to academic
decisions," id. at 199 (capitalization
altered), no reasonable jury could find that Mawakana
"was denied tenure because of his race,"
id. at 207– 08. The district court next held
that the University was entitled to summary judgment on
Mawakana's 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 claims.
Id. at 208–09. The district court also held
that Mawakana's contract claims were untimely.
Id. at 209–10, 212. Finally, it held that even
if Mawakana's contract claims were timely and the
University had breached a contractual duty, the claims failed
because the breach had not caused Mawakana damages.
Id. at 210–11. Mawakana timely appealed all
but the district court's grant of summary judgment on the
section 1981 and section 1983 claims. We review the district
court's decision de novo, Allina Health
Servs. v. Price, 863 F.3d 937, 940–41 (D.C. Cir.
2017), mindful that summary judgment is appropriate only
"if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law," Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
Title VII and the DCHRA make it unlawful for an employer
"to discriminate against any individual with respect to
his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of
employment" because of the individual's race. 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1); accord D.C. Code §
2-1402.11(a)(1). An employee who has suffered an adverse
employment action because of his race has been subjected to a
violation of both statutes. See Baloch v.
Kempthorne, 550 F.3d 1191, 1196 (D.C. Cir. 2008);
Futrell v. Dep't of Labor Fed. Credit Union, 816
A.2d 793, 802–03 (D.C. 2003) (clarifying Title VII and
DCHRA are subject to same analysis).