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University of Miami campus

EEOC Sues University of Miami for Gender-Based Pay Discrimination

Women make up about half the workforce, but they are continually paid less than their male counterparts. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, women on average made $41,677 in 2017, compared to the average male salary of $52,146. The pay gap seems to exist in all industries, including academia.

This past Monday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), on behalf of political science professor Louise Davidson-Schmich, filed a complaint against the University of Miami for gender-based pay discrimination among the College of Arts and Sciences faculty.

"[The] University of Miami discriminated against Louise Davidson-Schmich by paying her less than a male counterpart for performing equal and/or similar work," the lawsuit reads.

After receiving her PhD and master's degrees in political science from Duke University, Davidson-Schmich was hired as an assistant professor at UM in the political science department in 2002. She earned $50,000 annually. Then, in the summer of 2007, she was granted tenure and a promotion to associate professor, receiving a pay raise of $22,500.

During that summer, the lawsuit says, the university also hired Gregory Koger, who had been teaching at the University of Montana for four years as an assistant professor with a base salary of $81,000 — around $9,000 more than Davidson-Schmich's salary. Additionally, at the time, Davidson-Schmich had already published a book, but Koger did not do so until 2010, the lawsuit asserts.

Davidson-Schmich, a 2016 New Zealand Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program winner, was up for a promotion along with Koger in early 2017. Both professors were reviewed by the dean to determine promotion. Though both received above-average teaching reviews, the lawsuit alleges Koger's service component "lacked any distinction" and Davidson-Schmich "has willingly assumed more than her share of service assignments — in the profession as well as at the university — when asked or on her own initiative." In the end, both received a promotion.

At the same time, the Ad Hoc Committee on Women Faculty examined the pay salaries for the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and presented a memorandum to the dean to address pay-equity issues. It determined women make $32,889 less per year than their male counterparts. In addition, although 48 percent of associate and assistant professors are women, women make up only 19 percent of full-time professors, the committee concluded.

Later that spring, Davidson-Schmich and other women faculty members met with the CAS dean to discuss their concerns of employment discrimination.

"At the May 2017 meeting with the CAS Dean, [Davidson-Schmich] specifically raised her concern about being paid less than other male professors, and about pay increases being based on the percentage of current salary, which would reinforce and perpetuate existing pay disparities," the lawsuit says. "The CAS Dean did not do anything to address the concerns raised by [the] group of female faculty members."

In addition to expressing her concerns to the dean, Davidson-Schmich also requested that the Title IX coordinator investigate if male counterparts received higher salaries. But her request went unanswered. However, in May 2018, she mistakenly received an email stating Koger received a salary of $137,366 while UM paid her $112,400. With this knowledge, Davidson-Schmich in June 2018 filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, which ultimately took up her case.

"UM was put on notice on at least four occasions of unequal pay based on sex — through the Memorandum, the May 2017 meeting between the CAS Dean and female faculty members, [Davidson-Schmich’s] request to the Title IX Coordinator for an investigation, and EEOC’s Charge of Discrimination — yet UM did not remedy the pay disparity based on sex," the lawsuit alleges.

A UM spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending litigation.

There have been previous allegations of gender-pay discrimination at the university. Last August, Sung Hee Joo, an assistant professor in the college of engineering, filed a complaint alleging males in the same position with similar qualifications are paid thousands more. Statistics from the Department of Education point to disparities between male and female assistant, associate, and full professors at UM over the years, most recently in 2017.

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