535 N.E.2d 112 (Ind. 1989), 50S03-8903-CV-182, Indiana Civil Rights Com'n v. Culver Educational Foundation (Culver Military Academy)

Docket Nº:50S03-8903-CV-182, 50A03-8608-CV-00246.
Citation:535 N.E.2d 112
Party Name:INDIANA CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION and Martha W. Bernauer, Appellants (Respondents), v. CULVER EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (CULVER MILITARY ACADEMY), Appellee (Petitioner below).
Case Date:March 03, 1989
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana

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535 N.E.2d 112 (Ind. 1989)


Appellants (Respondents),



Appellee (Petitioner below).

Nos. 50S03-8903-CV-182, 50A03-8608-CV-00246.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

March 3, 1989

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Frederick S. Bremer, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for Ind. Civil Rights Com'n.

Roy D. Rogers, Indianapolis, for Martha W. Bernauer.

Douglas J. Heckler, Keith E. White, Barnes & Thornburg, Indianapolis, for appellee.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

This cause comes to us on a petition to transfer from the Third District Court of Appeals. Petition is brought by Appellee, Petitioner in the trial court, Culver Educational Foundation, more commonly known as Culver Military Academy, following a court of appeals reversal of the trial court judgment in favor of Culver.

Because this case has been unresolved for several years, we note in some detail its procedural and factual history to aid in its resolution. Martha W. Bernauer initially worked as a part-time librarian for Culver Military Academy. In 1973 she was hired as a reading instructor. Culver practice required an instructor to serve on probation for three years, and if deemed successful at the end of that period, to be tenured. In 1974 Bernauer filed a complaint against Culver under the Indiana Civil Rights Act, alleging sex discrimination on the basis there was unequal insurance coverage (i.e., the policy covered "wives" of faculty members rather than "spouses" of faculty members), and because she felt she was not receiving the same pay as males for the same job. Culver quickly acknowledged the insurance issue and changed coverage to read "spouses" of faculty members. The Indiana Civil Rights Commission investigators subsequently found no probable cause on the equal pay issue. A witness for Culver testified that once the insurance language was changed, it was a "dead issue." There was evidence that since there was no remaining controversy with respect to the insurance issue, someone from the Indiana Civil Rights Commission suggested

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that Culver request Bernauer withdraw her complaint as long as the issue was cured. Bernauer then met with Superintendent Colonel Barone; there is conflict as to the nature of that meeting. Bernauer claims the meeting evolved into a confrontation in which Barone suggested to her that she either "play with the team and be a team player" or she would "have to get off the team." Culver denies that was the nature of the discussion. Bernauer's complaint was, however, subsequently dismissed. Some time after this, Bernauer's position at Culver was eliminated.

On February 26, 1975, Bernauer filed the instant charge with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, alleging her employer, Culver Military Academy, was retaliating against her for filing the earlier sex discrimination charge. Culver maintained it discontinued the reading program and Bernauer's services were no longer needed. Further, they presented evidence they had found her to be unsatisfactory for permanent tenure. Culver also presented evidence that beginning about 1970, serious changes occurred which directly affected school enrollment. Conflicts in society regarding the Vietnam War and other social problems seriously affected public attitude toward military schools. At the end of the 1974 spring semester, Superintendent General Carpenter left and was replaced by Colonel Barone. Colonel Barone was seen as having a more military approach to operating the academy; he initiated many changes in the academic atmosphere, including the reading program. It was he who eliminated the reading program, which resulted in Bernauer's dismissal. Bernauer testified the many changes made in assigning students to her reading classes caused her a great deal of distress. Witnesses for Culver testified Barone eliminated many other programs in addition to the reading program.

In the summer of 1976, one year after Bernauer left Culver, Barone was replaced as superintendent by John Mars. Mars had been a teacher at Culver for thirty-five years and had been chairman of the language department. While Barone was a career military man, Mars was a career academician. Mars' replacement of Barone generated substantial contributions from alumnae and increased enrollment because of Mars' long affiliation with Culver and because he was a well known, well liked individual. Mars reinstated the reading program after a one-year hiatus and...

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