Pay Equality Bw

To the Jury? A Professor’s Pay Equity Battle Soldiers On

In 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Oregon dismissed a lawsuit brought by Jennifer Freyd, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, against the University and two University officials. In the lawsuit, Freyd alleged that although her own department chair identified a “glaring” pay gap between her and the men she works with, nothing had been done to equalize her pay.

The lawsuit included claims under the Equal Pay Act, which provides that “every worker must get equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, race, age, or other protected characteristics.” In dismissing the case, the District Court justified the pay gap by differentiating the kind of work the men in the psychology department perform and focusing on the retention raises they had secured over the years.

This past week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed some of the District Court’s decision, sending the case back down for trial. While the appellate decision does not guarantee victory for Freyd, it does directly strike down the District Court’s notion that no reasonable jury could conclude that Freyd performed “a common core of tasks” and did “substantially equal work” as the better-paid men in her department. That is, a reasonable jury could be persuaded that Freyd and her higher paid male colleagues “share the same ‘overall job,’” as they are all full professors in the psychology department with responsibilities for research, teaching, advising students, and participating in University committees. The Ninth Circuit also reversed and remanded Freyd’s related state law equal pay act claims and allegations of sex-based disparate impact in pay under Title VII. It affirmed on her disparate treatment, Title IX, and state equal rights act claims.

Notably, this decision comes as Freyd is set to retire.

Client Tip

The decision, particularly the revival of Freyd’s disparate impact claim, serves as a reminder to look critically at any pay gaps that emerge along gender lines. If they cannot be explained by genuine differences in the type of work performed, further analysis of compensation metrics and policies should be performed.

Categorized: Discrimination, Employment

Tagged In: , , ,

Approved Investigators of Sexual Misconduct

Bowditch attorneys are regularly retained by institutions of higher education to conduct sexual misconduct investigations. Our attorneys are approved investigators of sexual misconduct and frequently hired by United Educators. We also provide consulting services and training to colleges, universities and secondary schools on a wide variety of issues relating to preventing, investigating and responding to sexual misconduct.

About the Authors

Stay Connected

Of Counsel

Lynette Paczkowski

Lynette Paczkowski is a pragmatic and trusted advisor with extensive experience advocating for her clients at trial and appellate courts across Massachusetts. Clients rely on her to protect their interests during stressful, challenging times. Lynette’s empathy for her clients’ situations allows her to understand their priorities and concerns and develop a strategy around those goals. She routinely guides and helps individuals navigate prenuptial agreements, divorces, child custody issues, and other domestic and familial disputes. She also represents individual and corporate clients from various industries, including construction, utility, professional services, real estate, nonprofit and education, in litigation matters and litigation-avoidance strategies, including in the areas of construction litigation, land use disputes and tort-related claims.

Stay Connected

More Posts by Author ›

About the Authors

Stay Connected

Of Counsel

Lynette Paczkowski

Lynette Paczkowski is a pragmatic and trusted advisor with extensive experience advocating for her clients at trial and appellate courts across Massachusetts. Clients rely on her to protect their interests during stressful, challenging times. Lynette’s empathy for her clients’ situations allows her to understand their priorities and concerns and develop a strategy around those goals. She routinely guides and helps individuals navigate prenuptial agreements, divorces, child custody issues, and other domestic and familial disputes. She also represents individual and corporate clients from various industries, including construction, utility, professional services, real estate, nonprofit and education, in litigation matters and litigation-avoidance strategies, including in the areas of construction litigation, land use disputes and tort-related claims.

Stay Connected

More Posts by Author ›

Stay Connected

Subscribe to Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.