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Court revives UO suit alleging ‘glaring’ gender pay gap

March 17, 2021 GMT

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A federal appeals court has revived a University of Oregon professor’s lawsuit alleging the university has failed to address a “glaring” pay gap between her and male colleagues.

Psychology professor Jennifer Joy Freyd argued that the university paid her thousands less per year than it paid four male professors though they were all of equal rank and seniority, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

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A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals held Monday that a reasonable jury could find that Freyd and her male colleagues performed a common core of tasks and did substantially equal work yet the men drew significantly higher wages.

The decision reverses a ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane and moves the case back to the trial court.

The appeals panel revived Freyd’s claims under the federal Equal Pay Act, Oregon’s law prohibiting discriminatory wages and federal civil rights law preventing job discrimination based on sex.

The decision has coincided with Freyd’s retirement and new status as professor emeritus at the university.

“I gave the university my career basically, and it’s hard to be treated this way,” Freyd said. “There’s so many people I want to not have to go through what I went through. That’s why I do it.”

In a statement, the University of Oregon said it will evaluate whether to appeal or proceed to trial as issues posed by the case “place the ability of universities to retain faculty in question.”

It further noted that the appeals panel didn’t revive Freyd’s claims against the university that alleged intentional discrimination on the basis of gender.

In 2014, Freyd received salary information for the Psychology Department faculty and noticed she was making between $14,000 and $42,000 less per year than four of her male colleagues at comparable rank and tenure.