In a welcome common sense decision, the California Court of Appeal in Serri v. Santa Clara University affirmed summary judgment granted to Santa Clara University against its former Director of Affirmative Action.

Why? Because as the University’s Director of Affirmative Action, she failed to file the University’s Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) for three years in a row!

Indeed, the undisputed record showed that Serri not only failed to file the University’s AAP for three successive years, but also failed to inform her supervisors that she had not filed them and made other misrepresentations about the AAPs.

Since the University had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for discharging Serri, the case turned in large part on her ability to show that the University’s reasons for firing her were a pretext for discrimination. Struggling to establish pretext, Serri did not literally argue that her “dog ate her AAP,” but she came close by asserting a series of weak excuses such as:

  1. the AAPs weren’t really that important;
  2. failure to file the AAPs would not likely result in actual sanctions against the University;
  3. the University failed to provide her with data and a consultant to process the data necessary for an AAP (ignoring the fact that she was responsible for overseeing this process); and
  4. when she once had actually prepared an AAP over a decade earlier, she “sensed” the University President was “reluctant” to sign the AAP, and he “never asked her” about the AAPs.

The Court exposed and rejected these arguments in a decision that affirms accountability still plays an important role in the workplace.

Click here if you would like to read the entire opinion.