Session November 18, 2014
Appeal from the Tennessee Claims Commission No. T20130716 Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner
Larry L. Crain, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Guler Boyraz.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Acting Solicitor General, Mary M. Bers, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P. J., M. S., and Andy D. Bennett, J., joined.
RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Dr. Guler Boyraz, a native and citizen of Turkey, applied to Tennessee State University ("TSU") for a tenure-track position as assistant professor in counseling psychology in 2007; she was employed by letter dated May 5, 2008 for one year at a salary of $44, 000.00. The appointment letter, titled "Notice of Tenure-Track Appointment and Agreement of Employment for Faculty, " was signed by then-President Melvin Johnson and Dr. Boyraz. Since Dr. Boyraz was not a naturalized citizen of the United States at the time of her application to TSU, a necessary condition of her employment was that she maintain H-1B visa status. TSU, as her sponsoring employer, initiated the process to get Dr. Boyraz the necessary work visa, which was approved in March 2009 and was valid until February 29, 2012.
In June of 2011, Dr. Boyraz began to converse with various administrators at TSU, seeking assistance in applying for permanent resident status. In the course of her efforts, Dr. Boyraz, at the urging of Ronald Ostenfield, TSU's director of Human Resources, hired an immigration attorney to advise her. In January 2012, Mr. Ostenfield advised Dr. Boyraz that TSU would file both an application for an extension of her visa and for permanent residency. On January 31, 2012, Dr. Boyraz was presented with a letter advising her that in light of the U.S. Department of Labor wage determination,  TSU would no longer be able to assist her in her application efforts and, due to her work authorization being set to expire on February 29, 2012, she would no longer be employed.
On December 3, 2012, Dr. Boyraz filed a claim for damages with the Tennessee Claims Commission against the Tennessee Board of Regents, the governing board for TSU, asserting causes of action for breach of contract and negligent deprivation of statutory rights. In due course, the State filed a Motion to Dismiss the claims under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(1) and 12.02(6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
The present appeal is from the order granting the motion. Dr. Boyraz articulates the following issues:
I. Whether the Commissioner erred in granting the State's Motion to Dismiss under rules 12.02 and 12.06 Tenn. R. Civ. P. by finding the Claims Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction under Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(a)(1)(L) to adjudicate Plaintiffs claims against TSU on its breach of the Plaintiff's employment contract.
II. Whether the Commissioner erred in granting the State's Motion to Dismiss under rules 12.02 and 12.06 Tenn. R. Civ. P. by finding the Claims Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction under Tenn. Code Ann. §9-8-307(a)(1)(N) to adjudicate the Plaintiffs claims against TSU based on its ...