• David Manes

KM&A Secures Judgment for University of Pittsburgh Professor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Federal Judge: University of Pittsburgh

Violated Professor’s Rights

In a milestone case, the Federal District Court held that Pitt

 violated a professor’s due process rights when they cut his salary.

PITTSBURGH – On Monday, June 5, 2017, attorneys Sean L. Ruppert and Martell Harris of Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC (“KM&A”) secured a judgment for a University of Pittsburgh professor in a landmark case that may impact government employees nationwide. Judge Nora Barry Fischer’s decision in this case has laid a foundation for establishing that public sector employees, like police officers, high school teachers, and college professors, may have a constitutional right to due process before their pay may be reduced.

The court found that Pitt had violated the rights of Dr. Jerome McKinney when it cut his salary by 20 percent in 2013. Dr. McKinney is a tenured professor at the University’s Graduate School of Public Policy and International Relations (“GSPIA”). This finding will send ripples across the employment law sphere—extending beyond the bounds of Pittsburgh.

Dr. McKinney, who has been a dedicated employee of Pitt since 1970, was not notified that his salary had been reduced until five (5) days after the cut had gone into effect. In a ground-breaking decision, Judge Fischer found this was a violation of Dr. McKinney’s constitutional rights, saying “…the expectation of employment to which Dr. McKinney is entitled as a tenured professor includes a property interest in the entirety of the salary.”

The Fifth Amendment requires that all citizens be given “due process” before they can be deprived of any piece of their property. Because the court found Dr. McKinney had a property interest in his salary, the 5th Amendment required that he been given due process before that property could be taken away from him.  The Court described the due process that Dr. McKinney was entitled to as a fair hearing to defend himself before the pay cut took effect. Judge Fischer found that Pitt failed to offer such hearing, leading to this important decision.

This ruling stands out among a thread of past decisions to the contrary. Prior cases found that other public sector employees, including some college professors, were not entitled to due process before their pay could be reduced. While Pitt clung to these prior decisions, insisting that Dr. McKinney was not entitled to due process before his salary could be reduced, Judge Fischer disagreed. This decision may change the course of future employment law cases.

Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC is an employment law firm with principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, serving all counties in Pennsylvania, focusing on employment law, business law, litigation, and civil issues. KM&A clients include employees, small businesses, parties in litigation, and people with a variety of legal issues.

Sean L. Ruppert and Martell Harris were the lead attorneys in this matter. For more information about this case, contact Sean L. Ruppert at (412) 626-5550 or at sr@lawkm.com and Martell Harris at 412-626-5585 or at mh@lawkm.com.

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