United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
DR. CHRISTOPHER FROST PLAINTIFF
UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Dr. Christopher
Frost's Amended Motion for Preliminary Injunction and
Permanent Injunction. DN 21. Defendants have responded (DN
22), and Plaintiff has replied (DN 24). This matter is now
ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow,
Frost's motion for preliminary injunction and permanent
injunction will be GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART.
litigation arises out of the termination of Plaintiff Dr.
Christopher Frost from his tenure-track appointment as an
Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of
Louisville. Frost filed this action on March 27, 2019,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Frost seeks a preliminary
injunction restoring him to his tenure-track appointment
asserting that Defendants deprived him of protectable
property and liberty interests without due process of law
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
parties jointly filed a stipulation of facts (DN 19) and the
relevant facts are undisputed. The Court adopts the
stipulation and reproduces it below as presented by the
March 13, 2015, the University of Louisville (“U of
L”) offered Dr.
Frost a probationary, tenure-track appointment as an
Assistant Professor of Biology in the College of Arts and
Sciences. Dr. Frost accepted the offer. A true and accurate
copy of the March 13, 2015 offer letter is attached as
Exhibit 4 to the Amended Complaint.
March 13, 2015 offer letter stated that, “the
conditions governing employment at the University of
Louisville are contained in the University's governance
document, the Redbook.”
March 13, 2015 offer letter further provided that:
Your review for tenure will be no later than academic year
2020-2021, with tenure to be effective July 1, 2022. If your
review during academic year 2020-2021 results in a decision
not to grant tenure, your appointment for 2021-2022 would be
terminal. Termination of your appointment prior to that time
would be subject to the provisions of the Redbook.
The policies and procedures for all personnel reviews are
specified in the Redbook and the College of Arts and
Sciences Personnel Policy and Procedures.
the course of his three-year tenure at the University, Dr.
Frost has supervised the work of graduate and undergraduate
students. Dr. Frost supervised the laboratory research,
article-writing and other post-graduate work of three
graduate students, one postdoctoral scientist and eight
undergraduate students, all of whom work in the laboratory
created by Dr. Frost.
2017, the National Science Foundation awarded Dr. Frost in
excess of $700, 000 for use in his on-going research (the
July 7, 2018, Dr. Frost hosted a potluck at his home. He
invited those students who worked in his lab. He also
included his accuser, Jane Doe, in the invitation. Doe is a
student in the Biology Department at the University of
Louisville. Defendants Ernst and Schroeder concluded that Doe
was under the age of 21 at the time of the July 7, 2018
potluck. Defendants Ernst and Schroeder made no finding
respecting whether Dr. Frost knew Doe was under 21 at the
time of the potluck.
Frost bought a six-pack of beer for himself for the July 7,
2018 event. The invitees were permitted to bring alcohol to
the event; that is, it was BYOB. Doe alleged that Dr. Frost
offered her a beer but that she turned it down because she
already had one. Dr. Frost disputes the allegation that he
offered Doe a beer. He agrees that Doe was drinking beer at
the potluck. Defendants Ernst and Schroeder “were
unable to confirm Dr. Frost offered [a beer] to Ms.
[Doe].” Case Summary Report at 5.
indicated that she wanted to stay after the other potluck
attendees left. Dr. Frost and Doe continued talking in the
living room. While the parties were not able to reach a
stipulation as to the events leading up to Doe's
consumption of bourbon, they agree that Doe drank some
bourbon at Dr. Frost's home. The parties also agree that
Defendants Ernst and Schroeder “were unable to confirm
that Dr. Frost poured bourbon in a glass for Ms.
[Doe].” Case Summary Report at 5.
Afterward, Doe became ill, and while she was vomiting into a
toilet, Dr. Frost held her hair back and rubbed the top of
her back. Defendants Ernst and Schroeder “confirmed Dr.
Frost placed his hands on Ms. [Doe]'s upper back and her
hair.” Case Summary Report at 6.
November 5, 2018, Doe brought a complaint alleging harassment
based on gender/sex against Dr. Frost. Ms. Doe lodged her
complaint with the University's Employee Relations
Department. Defendants Laura Schroeder and Donna Ernst
interviewed Ms. Doe on November 5, 2018 as a part of their
fact finding pursuant to the U of L's sexual harassment
policy (Personnel Policy 1.02).
November 6, 2018, Dr. Frost received this e-mail message from
Defendant Laura Schroeder (f/k/a Laura Carter):
On November 5, 2018, Human Resources received a complaint
from [Jane Doe] alleging harassment based on gender/sex. The
complaint names you as a respondent.
The University takes complaints of this nature very
seriously. Our office has initiated an investigation in
accordance with University policy and procedures. An
investigation is generally completed within sixty (60)
business days of receipt of the complaint; you will be
notified if additional time is necessary. Upon the conclusion
of the investigation you will receive a copy of our findings.
The same laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment
also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose
unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment
discrimination proceeding. The University will investigate
any reported retaliation any person who is party to a
complaint process under these guidelines that are consistent
with University policies and procedures and the law.
Our office will contact you to schedule an appointment and
further discuss the allegations in the complaint. If you have
any questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate
to contact me.
EEO - Employee Relations Specialist
Human Resources . . . .
November 6, 2018, Dr. Frost sent this email to Defendant
Schroeder (f/k/a Carter): “Dear Laura Carter, I would
like to be informed of the specifics of the complaint. Thank
you, Dr. Frost.”
November 7, 2018, Ms. Carter, now Schroeder, sent this email
to Dr. Frost: Good Afternoon Dr. Frost, The harassment
complaint based on gender/sex contained the following
• You hosted a potluck at your house in the summer in
which students were invited;
• Alcohol was served; and
• Inappropriate touching occurred.
further discuss these allegations when we meet and you will
have an opportunity to respond and ask questions. This is a
fact finding meeting, not a formal hearing.
Sexual Harassment Policy (Personnel Policy 1.02) sets forth
the process for investigating and resolving complaints made
pursuant to the Sexual Harassment Policy.
Redbook applies to all faculty and staff members
employed at the University.
Defendants Ernst and Schroeder interviewed six witnesses as a
part of their fact finding investigation. Two had attended
the potluck. Four had not attended the potluck. The
identities of those students whom Ernst and Schroeder
selected for interviews were not disclosed to Dr. Frost in
advance of or during his interview. None of the specific
statements made by his accuser or any other interviewee was
disclosed to Dr. Frost in advance of or during his interview.
Frost was interviewed by the University's Employee
Relations and Compliance Office on December 5, 2018. Dr.
Frost provided Ernst and Schroeder with a copy of Doe's
post-complaint effort to follow him through ResearchGate, a
social media website.
Frost was not given the opportunity to question or
cross-examine Jane Doe or anyone else whom Defendant Ernst
and Defendant Schroeder interviewed.
January 14, 2019, Defendants Ernst and Schroeder disclosed
their findings, whom they selected to interview, statements
which they obtained and selected for inclusion in the report,
and the conclusion they drew that Dr. Frost had violated the
U of L's sexual harassment policy. Those findings and
conclusions are contained in a “Case Summary
Report.” Defendants Ernst and Schroeder emailed the
report to Dr. Frost, Dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, Provost
Beth Boehm, and Chief Human Resources Officer John Elliott.
They also emailed their report to Dr. ...