A tenured professor at Purdue University has sued the university, alleging that it wrongfully disciplined him after he posted anti-Muslim comments on his Facebook page. According to The Fire.org, Prof. Maurice Eisenstein, an Orthodox Jew, posted a picture on his Facebook page of “Christians killed by a radical Muslim group,” along with written comments questioning the response of moderate Muslims and insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
The Facebook post led to student protests on campus and, later, to anti-harassment complaints by at least two other professors. The professors later filed a second round of complaints alleging that Eisenstein had retaliated against them for their anti-harassment complaints. The university is alleged to have conducted an investigation of the complaints, “forcing” Eisenstein “to go through a full-blown hearing to defend himself.” As a result of the investigation and hearing, Eisenstein was cleared of violating the harassment policy but was found to have violated the retaliation policy. As a result, Eisenstein received written reprimands.
The complaint alleges several counts, including: (1) an “administrative action” claim, which appears to be a due-process claim based on the university’s allegedly “arbitrary and capricious” disciplinary practice; (2) a state constitutional claim, based on the allegation that the complainant-professors “conspired and colluded” with the university’s Chancellor “to deprive Eisenstein of his civil rights” by filing their “unfounded complaints;” and (3) a state-law privacy claim, based on the allegation that the defendants read from a “confidential letter” written by the Chancellor at a faculty meeting.
Based on the complaint alone, these claims seem attenuated at best. Unless there are additional facts not alleged in the complaint that could establish that the professors actually got together and colluded to harm Eisenstein’s reputation by filing complaints of harassment with the university, I would be not be surprised if all three counts were subject to dismissal on the pleadings. Nevertheless, the lawsuit is yet another example of the troubles Facebook use by employees continues to cause employers of every size and in every sector.