Posted December 5th, 2018.
By Alana Minkler
A UA associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the University of Arizona which claims that the department discriminates against female employees when it comes to pay and promotions on Thursday, Nov. 29.
According to the lawsuit, Katrina Miranda, a tenured associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry, is suing the Arizona Board of Regents to “redress systematic gender discrimination in employment,” the suit said.
The suit seeks up to $20 million in damages, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
The lawsuit is based off of alleged violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Andrew Melzer, the New York attorney of the plaintiff’s law firm, said, “the case is about a pattern of discrimination, essentially in pay and promotion for female professors in the College of Science.”
“I think there is some kind of pattern at the university level knowing about these complaints, receiving these complaints and not really taking adequate action to address it, so that is a common thread, in our opinion,” Melzer said.
The UA declined to comment.
The cases used the salary database as well as the observations and experiences of Miranda and others to see if there is a pattern of pay inequities and holding women back within the College of Science.
Based on publicly available salary information, “Miranda learned that she has been underpaid by $9,000 to $36,000 every year, compared to her male colleagues who have worked for similar lengths of time at the university and received tenure around the same time as she did,” according to the lawsuit.
Additionally, Miranda was denied a promotion from associate professor to full professor in 2016 after working at the UA since 2002. The suit claims that this was based off of her gender and not her qualifications.
“We think she was qualified, that she had the credentials and experience needed to obtain elevation to full professor and was denied for what we are alleging are discriminatory reasons,” Melzer said.
Miranda’s suit also alleges that the university retaliated against her for complaints about the pay disparity. They allegedly reduced her laboratory space, required her to waive a prerequisite to a course and removed her from instructing a course she created.
The lawsuit is a class-action lawsuit, which means that she is suing on behalf of other female professors. If it is approved as a class-action lawsuit, the law firm will ask the court to send out a notice to other women in the same position, informing them of the lawsuit and their right to participate.
The suit also claimed, “upon information and belief, other female professors in the College have been similarly denied promotions based on their gender.”
Other women would be able to sue for the broader claims under Title VII and vote that gender pay and promotion discrimination are present. “If successful to approve class action, people will be part of it unless they choose not to be,” Melzer said.
As the case progresses, they will obtain information from the other side, speak to more women who are affected, be able to analyze data from prior years and obtain information and evidence needed to draw proper comparisons.
The suit was filed by the same law firm, Sanford Heisler Sharp, that filed a similar suit in January, Former UA Honors College Dean Patricia MacCorquodale v. ABOR. MacCorquodale sued the university for $2 million, claiming gender discrimination and pay inequity.
“Everyone is entitled to fair pay, an even playing-field and fair treatment, no matter what field you’re in,” Melzer said.