University of Denver Settles Pay Discrimination Lawsuit with $2.6 Million to Women Law Professors
DENVER, CO – In 2012, Professor Lucy Marsh discovered she was both the longest tenured and the lowest paid full professor at University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. A memo from the law school dean had revealed a substantial and unexplained gender pay gap at the school; women full professors were earning an average $19,781 less than their male counterparts. When school officials refused to remedy the disparity, Marsh took action, filing a pay discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sparking a federal investigation.
Five years later, the professor’s persistence has paid off: the U.S. District Court for Colorado today approved a $2.66 million settlement from University of Denver to Marsh and six other female law professors in a lawsuit brought by the EEOC. In addition to back pay and compensatory damages for years of unequal pay, the settlement also provides for substantial increases to the professors’ current salaries, and significant changes to the school’s compensation policies.
Marsh was represented as an intervener in the lawsuit by Hutchinson Black & Cook (Boulder, CO) and Equal Rights Advocates (ERA), a national gender justice organization based in San Francisco.
“We are tremendously proud of our client,” said ERA Legal Director Jennifer Reisch. “Her determination to achieve justice for herself and her colleagues will not only benefit current and future law professors at University of Denver; by pushing the equity bar higher at her school, her courage and persistence will also benefit women working in many other industries.”
The EEOC filed suit against the University in 2016 after a two-year investigation resulted in a finding that there was reasonable cause to believe the law school had engaged in a continuing pattern or practice of discrimination by paying female law professors less than their male counterparts dating back to as early as 1973, in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under the six-year consent decree that was part of the settlement approved today, the law school agreed to make significant changes to its compensation practices and to hire an independent consultant to ensure effective implementation of the changes. Reforms include providing annual salary data to faculty members for all employees in similar positions; notifying faculty of the criteria used to determine raises before the beginning of each school year; and working with the independent consultant to revise anti-discrimination policies. The consultant will also conduct annual reviews of salary-setting criteria and how they are being applied.
Reisch said the policy changes will serve as a good model for other schools facing similar pay disparity issues.
“The gender wage gap exists in nearly every profession and corner of our economy,” she said. “This settlement should send a message to employers that they need to take pay equity seriously.”
Equal Rights Advocates is a national civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women and girls.