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Monday, May 15, 2017

Denver Law School Faces Federal Equal Pay Lawsuit From Eight Female Professors

Denver Logo (2015)Following up on my earlier posts:

Rocky Mountain PBS News, University of Denver Faces Federal Equal Pay Suit from Female Law Professors:

It was a memo from the Dean of the University of Denver law school that Professor Lucy Marsh will never forget. The University said it was paying all female full law professors thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts for doing the same work. “Something had to be done about that,” she said. “That's against the law.”

But when she went to the Dean to protest, asking what he was going to do about the pay disparity?  “He said ‘nothing”, and I thought man I'm not going to take that.”

Marsh and seven of her female colleagues are now cited as examples of violation of the Equal Pay act in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit against the University.  Administration officials say the law professors’ compensation is based on a fair and unbiased evaluation of faculty and that every female full professor in the law school is entitled to less.  The university hired an outside consultant to examine their compensation system.

When the EEOC filed suit on behalf of Marsh and the other women, a University of Denver news release told faculty and the public that Marsh was being paid less because of “her sub-standard performance in scholarship, teaching and service.” Chancellor Rebecca Chopp was quoted in support, noting: “we stand by our historical system of evaluation and merit pay.”

“It was a dreadful thing to say,” said Professor Lucy Marsh. ...

The law school dean’s 2012 memo resulted from questions by female faculty about how bonus money was going to be divided among professors and just how much professors were being paid. In the memo, the dean wrote:

"The mean salary for female full professors was $14,870/yr less than that for males before this round of raises. And $15,859/yr less than that for males after this round of raises." ...

Professor Lucy Marsh and the seven other female full professors named in the suit say they never imagined their original complaints to the law school dean would have gone this far. “I certainly expected him to say OK yes, I see what the problem is. I'm going to correct it,” she said. “It had not occurred to me that anybody would intentionally continue that pattern.”

“I have a feeling for what DU could be and I'd like to see them aim for that rather than defending something that I think is illegal,” Marsh said. “Take the leadership,” she said. “As we have a good hockey team and good lacrosse team ... let's be a school that sets an example of equal pay for everybody.”

“To say that about anybody in a private setting would be pretty terrible and then to say it to every one of our grads is really a defamation that is a serious thing.”

An investigation by Rocky Mountain PBS found that despite the university charge, the administration had honored Marsh in 2010 with an "excellence in teaching award" touting her career and using her trailblazing reputation for women in the legal profession to bring in donors to a fundraising dinner. With Marsh as an honoree, the law school raised $30,000 to benefit the student law office and a scholarship fund. Marsh is one of five female full professors, of the eight named in the federal suit, who has been honored with the prestigious award.

Professor Marsh's publications are listed on her faculty webpage and CV.  In her forty years on the Denver faculty, she has published only one article in a law review other than Denver's — a 1978 article in the Colorado Law Review.

Legal Education | Permalink


Professor Marsh's publications are listed on her faculty webpage and CV. In her forty years on the Denver faculty, she has published only one article in a law review other than Denver's — a 1978 article in the Colorado Law Review.

Good grief!

Posted by: AnonLawProf | May 15, 2017 9:57:56 AM

I suspect that most universities have management systems in place to protect against this situation. Did Denver not? My university requires departments and schools to monitor salary structure for apparent gender-based "bias", and to justify apparent departures from the expectation that their shouldn't be significant gender-correlated differences. Did Denver not have such a system in place? Did it, and did the Law School provide justifications? What did those justifications look like? Where the justifications backed up by regular faculty evaluations that, for example, told employees that if they expected to be paid more than others they needed to be research-productive? All things that will come out in trial. Until then, it's hard to know what to think.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | May 15, 2017 8:03:20 PM

Got my JD and LLM from DU Law School and sorry to see them having this trouble. I don’t believe the female law professors are underpaid. They should work on improving their legal scholarship instead of going to court. That would be a more honorable way to get more money.

Posted by: Ken Willis | May 15, 2017 9:22:27 PM