Arizona Board of Regents Gender Discrimination Collective Action

Case Description

Case Type: Gender Discrimination
Organization: Arizona Board of Regents

Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP filed a gender discrimination collective action lawsuit today against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on behalf of long-serving University of Arizona (UA) Professor of Women’s Studies and Honors College Dean Emerita Patricia MacCorquodale and other similarly situated female deans at the institution.

The Complaint, brought under the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA), alleges that ABOR dramatically underpaid Dr. MacCorquodale during her tenure as Honors College Dean relative to male deans at the university and to her male successors at the Honors College. Dean MacCorquodale had been employed by UA since 1978.

The Sanford Heisler Sharp team representing Dr. MacCorquodale is led by Washington, DC-based David Sanford, the firm’s Chairman, and includes New York-based partner Andrew Melzer and San Francisco-based James E. Richardson. In an interesting turn of events, Richardson studied under Dr. MacCorquodale as an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona two decades ago. Merle Joy Turchik of Turchik Law Firm, PC, Tucson, is co-counsel for the matter.

According to the complaint, Dr. MacCorquodale’s leadership and extraordinary dedication to her students as Dean of the Honors College for almost 25 years were widely recognized throughout the UA community, yet she was paid far less than her male counterparts during the entire period she held the position. Her record of accomplishments at the University was second to none – 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.

“Despite the fact that Dr. MacCorquodale consistently complained about her unfairly low salary, neither the Provost nor the Regents did anything to address the disparity,” said David Sanford. “Not only did the University drastically underpay Dean MacCorquodale, it added insult to injury by terminating her deanship in 2016, in retaliation for her ongoing advocacy for pay equal to that of male deans on the UA campus.”

When the institution appointed Elliott Cheu as the interim Honors College dean after Dean MacCorquodale’s termination, he was paid an annual salary more than $100,000 higher than Dr. MacCorquodale had been paid in her final year as dean. Her permanent successor appointed in July 2017, Terry Hunt, is paid nearly $70,000 more annually despite having considerably less experience than Dr. MacCorquodale.

The Complaint asserts that Dr. MacCorquodale’s pay concerns are not unique, and that the striking salary differences between male and female deans throughout University of Arizona are common and are gender-based. The collective action seeks to represent all female deans at the University, all of whom the Complaint maintains have suffered from unequal pay for equivalent work compared to male deans.

Today’s filing describes the UA – particularly Provost Andrew C. Comrie – as perpetuating “a culture that marginalizes, demeans, and undervalues women.” The mistreatment of female deans has included incidents of inappropriate and sexist comments directed toward female deans, increased scrutiny of their performance, and generally excluding them from participation in leadership of the University. The overrepresentation of men in deanships campus-wide and, as a result, on the Dean’s Council is cited among the factors contributing to UA’s systematic discrimination against female academic leaders.

“The University has long been governed by a ‘good old boys’ club’ that keeps women out of academic leadership positions; for those few women who do make it into positions like deanships, that same club ensures that those women are paid less and made to feel devalued and unwanted,” said Richardson. “Dean MacCorquodale is a tremendous asset not just to the University but to the people of Arizona, and it is disheartening that the University has taken advantage of her unwavering dedication.”

On behalf of Dr. MacCorquodale and of the EPA Collective Action Class comprising other similarly situated deans at UA, the suit requests certification of the gender discrimination claims as a collective action under the EPA; designation of Dr. MacCorquodale as class representative, and notification of all other potential members of the collective action. It also asks the Court to declare ABOR’s unlawful practices and procedures detailed in the Complaint to be in violation of the rights of Dr. MacCorquodale and other collective class members.

An injunction against ABOR and all other individuals acting in concert with ABOR to prevent further conduct violating Dr. MacCorquodale’s 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 Dr. MacCorquodale and the collective class members are entitled.

A jury trial is requested.

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