Wage Disparity For Women Grounds for Discrimination Lawsuit

We tend to think of higher education institutions as harbingers of more progressive thought and policies, ahead of the curve on issues of equality and fairness. businesswoman2

Unfortunately, as our Costa Mesa wage dispute lawyers know, this is not always the case. It’s rare, though, to see it stated as blatantly as it was by administrators at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law in a recent memorandum regarding pay raises.

We know that as recently as 2012, women on the whole earned 77 percent of what men did and that it’s further estimated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that this gender wage gap isn’t going to be fully closed until sometime around 2060. That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to fight for it to happen sooner.

Fifty years and a month after the Equal Pay Act was passed, a female professor at UD in Colorado filed a civil lawsuit alleging that her pay and that of her female colleagues was markedly disparate in comparison to her male colleagues who were, for the most part, conduct the same kind of work under very similar conditions at the same establishment.

While the median yearly pay for a full-time professor at the college was $150,000, the plaintiff was the lowest-paid professor on staff, earning less than $110,000 annually. The others on the lower rung of the pay scale were also female professors.

This alone might be grounds to file a lawsuit, but the university took it a step farther by seemingly admitting to a gender pay inequity, outlining the extent of that and then conceding it had no intention of correcting the issue anytime soon.

Ok, that wasn’t the intention of the memo, but that was the ultimate effect. The true intention was to inform the staff about funds that the school had received to dispense pay raises for law school staff that, it was hoped, would ultimately attract and retain top academic talent. As part of this, the memo indicated that the top 25 performers at the school would be getting a significant boost in pay.

There was a special section in this memo that touched on the issue of gender-based salary equity. The school stated that this particular round of raises would be applied without any regard to try to correct those “potential inequities.”

As it turned out, the gender wage gap widened following the disbursement of those raises. Prior to that, the median salary for a full-time female professor at the school was more than $7,500 less than what their male colleagues received. After this round of raises, it was nearly $11,300 less. When looking at the mean differences, female professors were earning nearly $14,900 less prior to the raises and $15,900 less after the raises.

The plaintiff professor said that she had been shocked not only at the blatant discrepancy but also at the admission of it and the fact that it was getting worse.

She had been a professor with the school since the 1970s, becoming full-time in the 1980s and never once asking for a raise. She first expressed concern about the gender pay inequity issue last spring, but the school declined to respond to her request except to say there was no gender inequality.

The professor pressed on, noting that equal pay is not something that employers do because they are considerate. It’s something they do because it’s the law.

Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

DU professor files gender-based wage-discrimination case against law school, July 9, 2013, By Colleen O’Connor, The Denver Post

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