Case Type: Gender Discrimination
Organization: Arizona Board of Regents
Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP added another female former dean to the gender discrimination collective action lawsuit the firm filed last month against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
Janice Cervelli, current President of Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and former Dean of the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona (UA) until 2016, joins former Honors College Dean Patricia MacCorquodale and similarly situated current and former female deans at the institution in alleging the University paid its female deans less than it paid male deans.
Plaintiffs are represented by a Sanford Heisler Sharp team led by Washington, DC-based David Sanford, the firm’s Chairman, which includes New York-based partner Andrew Melzer and San Francisco-based James E. Richardson, who studied under Dr. MacCorquodale as an undergraduate at UA two decades ago. Merle Joy Turchik of Turchik Law Firm, PC, Tucson, is co-counsel.
“The addition of Ms. Cervelli as a named plaintiff should lay to rest any doubts that anyone might have had about Dean MacCorquodale’s credibility, and bring an end to the unjustified attacks on her that began after she filed this complaint,” said Sanford. “Both of these outstanding female deans experienced significant pay disparities during the same period of employment. This is not a coincidence; this is how the University of Arizona discriminates against its female academic leaders.”
Brought under the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the amended Complaint alleges ABOR dramatically underpaid then-Deans MacCorquodale and Cervelli during their tenures.
Ms. Cervelli was a dean at the University from 2008 to 2016. She has been a professor since 1981 and served as a dean from 2000 until leaving the UA. Like Dr. MacCorquodale, Ms.Cervelli has earned numerous academic and community honors. A Fellow of both the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, she was named a “Woman of Influence: by Inside Tucson Business in 2013 and earned national recognition for Excellence in Academic Administration by the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture in 2002. In addition, she has received many honors including the President’s Medal from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2002, the YMCA Woman of Achievement Award in 1997, and the Gamma Sigma Delta Master Teacher Award from the University of Kentucky in 1992, among other commendations.
“Despite her significant contributions to the University of Arizona and the considerable recognition she brought to the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture, Ms. Cervelli was denied the pay male deans routinely received at the University. The difference between her pay and the average male dean was $80,000 annually in her last two years,” said Richardson. “When she raised issues about this significant compensation gap with four different provosts, her concerns fell on deaf ears. She was even denied a raise when there were funds specifically budgeted for this purpose. Ms. Cervelli’s experience with pay disparities at the University echoes that of Dr. MacCorquodale’s, and it affirms the pervasive gender discrimination alleged in the original Complaint.”
As described in the initial Complaint, Dr. MacCorquodale’s leadership and academic contributions to her students as Dean of the Honors College for nearly 25 years were widely recognized throughout the UA community, yet she was paid much less than male deans on campus during the entire of her deanship. Her record of accomplishments at the University was outstanding, including producing widely respected scholarship, providing devoted service to the institution, and skillfully developing the Honors College into the intellectual, social and cultural hub of the university.
“Dr. MacCorquodale’s complaints about her unfairly low salary received the same reaction as Ms. Cervelli’s: neither the Provost nor the Regents responded,” said Melzer. “In fact, they added insult to injury by terminating her deanship in 2016 in retaliation for her ongoing advocacy for pay equal to that of UA’s male deans.”
The amended Complaint asserts that the University engaged in a common practice of underpaying female deans, and that Dr. MacCorquodale’s and Ms. Cervelli’s respective experiences exemplify that unlawful practice. The collective action seeks to represent all female deans at the University, who are believed to have suffered from unequal pay for equivalent work compared to male deans for many years.
The amended Complaint also alleges that UA retaliated against Dr. MacCorquodale after she filed the original complaint. This recent retaliation included public attacks by high-level UA officials that attempted to discredit her complaints of discrimination and retaliation and demean her publicly.
For example, immediately after the Complaint was filed, the male Chair of the Faculty and Regents’ Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science Lynn Nadel sent an email to all faculty members baselessly criticizing Dr. MacCorquodale, including her abilities and performance.
“Retaliation such as this is not only inappropriate, it is illegal,” said Sanford. “Although Nadel subsequently apologized, that did not redress his public shaming of Dr. MacCorquodale or the harm he did to her reputation at UA and among the Chronicle of Higher Education’s readership.”
The amended Complaint reiterates the original’s request for certification of the gender discrimination claims as a collective action under the EPA on behalf of both Dr. MacCorquodale and Ms. Cervelli, and it seeks issuance of notice of the lawsuit to all other female deans at the University. It also requests that the Court declare ABOR’s unlawful practices and procedures as detailed in the amended Complaint to be in violation of the rights of both named Plaintiffs and other collective action members.
An injunction against ABOR and all other individuals acting in concert with ABOR to prevent further retaliation and other illegal conduct violating the Deans’ rights and the rights of other collective class members is also requested, as is an adjustment to the wage rates and benefits to the level they would enjoy but for ABOR’s discriminatory actions, and the award of back pay, front pay, and other damages for lost compensation and job benefits suffered; compensatory and liquidated damages and any other monetary and affirmative relief to which both deans and other members of the collective action are entitled. A jury trial is requested.