Law Professor Files Wage-Bias Case Against Law School

Although Congress has implemented laws to prevent disparity in the wages of men and women working in similar positions, there is still a large earnings gap between genders. This earnings gap is prevalent across the entire workforce, no matter what job. According to one law professor, it is even occurring by her employer. One would think that a law school would be the last place where federal labor laws may be broken. However, a law professor has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that her school violated federal labor law by paying her less than a man in a similar job.

University of Denver professor Lucy Marsh filed a discrimination claim with the EEOC earlier this month against Sturm College of Law alleging gender discrimination and violations of the Equal Pay Act. Enacted nearly 50 years ago, the Equal Pay Act requires that a man and woman doing the same job at the same place should be paid the same.

Marsh claims that the EEOC complaint stemmed from the “stark inequality between the salaries of make and female full professors” at the school. Despite having worked at the school for over 30 years and earning numerous awards, Marsh is the lowest paid professor on staff earning 37% less than the median full professor salary. Marsh stated, “[Pay equity] is not something done out of consideration. It’s the law.”

According to the EEOC, women in general earned only 77 percent of what men made in 2012. The EEOC estimates that the gender wage gap will not close until 2057 with the current rate of progression. The EEOC has prioritized pay discrimination as one of its top issues.

The EEOC complaint stated, “Professor Marsh believes that she and other female professors at the law school were discriminated against with respect to compensation because of their gender and were paid less than men performing substantially equal work….”

Documents filed with the case include a 2012 memo to faculty regarding pay raises from Dean Martin Katz. The memo included a comparison between male and female faculty salaries. The wage gap for female full-time professors only widened after the recent raises. The memo indicated that female full-time professors earned an average of $16,000 less than male full-time professors. However, Katz attributed the disparity to differences in starting salaries, merit based raises, renegotiated salaries, and previous supervisory positions.

According to Marsh, she had never asked for a raise or even thought about the potential disparity in pay until Ann Scales, a fellow female law professor, raised the issue even prior to the 2012 memo. Scales had inquired into the potential pay inequities in discussions with Katz. However, Katz declined to respond to Scales’ request for reassurances. Marsh decided to take up the case following the death of Scales.

The school declined to provide any addition comments stating that the case was still open and personnel information is confidential.

This will be an interesting case to monitor as it progresses. It is startling to think that if this can happen at a law school, where else is it occurring? If you have experienced discrimination from your employer, we encourage you to contact a qualified Tennessee employment lawyer. At The Higgins Firm, our team of employment attorneys would be happy to answer any questions that you may have related to your discrimination or wage bias claim.

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