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Nagarajan v. Sharpe

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 27, 2018

GOVINDASWAMY NAGARAJAN
v.
LONNIE SHARPE, ET AL.

          Assigned on Briefs January 4, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 16-200-II Carol L. McCoy, Chancellor

         This is an appeal from the trial court's dismissal of the pro se plaintiff's discrimination action against Tennessee State University and certain administrators. The court determined that the plaintiff had requested relief beyond its authority to award and granted the motion to dismiss in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed, Case Remanded

          Govindaswamy Nagarajan, Nashville, Tennessee, pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andreẻ Blumstein, Solicitor General; and John W. Dalton, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Glenda Glover, Mark Hardy, Samuel Hargrove, Jeanetta Jackson, Lonnie Sharpe, Linda Woodruff, and Tennessee State University.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. MCCLARTY, JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff, Govindaswamy Nagarajan ("Professor"), was born in the village of Kalyanapuram, Thanjavur District, State of Tamil Nadu, India on November 10, 1931. He arrived in the United States in August 1962 and became an American citizen on November 10, 1977. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

         Before immigrating to the United States, Professor received a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1955 from the University of Madras, a Master of Arts with an emphasis on Electronics in 1957 from Annamalai University, a Master of Science in Physics with an emphasis on Spectroscopy in 1958 from Annamalai University, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Physics in the areas of Modern Physics and Thermodynamics in 1961 from Annamalai University, and a Doctor of Science (D. Sc.) in Physics in the areas of Quantum Mechanics and Infrared Spectroscopy in 1968 from Annamalai University. After coming to this country, Professor worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Oklahoma State University at Stillwater; at the University of Maryland at College Park; and at the National Biomedical Research Foundation at Georgetown University under various research projects in different research areas from 1962 to 1970. He has published research papers in numerous journals of national and international reputation and a book on thermodynamic equilibrium studies. He also worked as a Professor of Physics and Chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina from 1966 to 1970, and as a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia from 1970 to 1973. From 1973 to 1979, he was again employed as Professor of Physics and Chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Allen University. He then served as a Professor of Physical Sciences at Voorhees College, Denmark, South Carolina from 1979 to 1980. The following year, he accepted a lower rank but a tenure-track position at Tennessee State University ("TSU") with a higher salary as an Associate Professor.

         Professor contends that in spite of the fact he had several years of experience, TSU did not give him any waiver toward his probation for tenure; to the contrary, according to Professor, African-American professors were given higher salary and rank than they deserved in addition to a waiver toward promotion for tenure. He claims that the policies of the Tennessee Board of Regents ("TBR") were rarely or not at all applied to the African-American administrators, professors, and interim administrators. Professor contends that the African-American administrators at TSU were "racist" and knowingly and willfully discriminated against him on the basis of his race and nationality. He claims that they denied him promotion and tenure in the 1985-86 academic year, again in the 1986-87 academic year, and also terminated him from service. After this termination by TSU, Professor was unable to obtain employment.

         Professor sought redress under federal law. After receiving a "Notice of Right to Sue" letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 1989 and filing an action, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee found in 1997 that TSU discriminated against Professor on the basis of national origin and improperly denied him tenure and promotion. The court awarded Professor reinstatement, back pay, and other damages.[1] TBR thereafter granted Professor tenure in June 1998.

         On February 29, 2016, Professor filed the complaint now before us. Professor, of Indian origin and 85 years old at the time of the adverse action, alleged that the TSU defendants, individually and in concert, acted to selectively discriminate against him primarily based on his age, race, and nationality. He argued that employees not in the protected class and who are less qualified than he were treated more favorably. Professor asserted that the TSU defendants engaged in character assassination and defamatory practices, forged his signature, created a fraudulent document, engaged in criminal conspiracy, fabricated many fraudulent complaints, and knowingly and willfully humiliated him in the eyes of ...


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