Meredith Downes, a tenured professor in the Department of Management and Quantitative Methods (MQM) at Illinois State University, has filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the university.
In the lawsuit, Downes claims that she makes less money than six of the eight tenured, full professors in MQM, who are all male. She said that she makes less money even though she has published more scholarly articles and has received a higher rating on her yearly performance evaluation than at least some of those male colleagues.
The suit states that the department’s policies provide for faculty members to receive either a standard raise or a raise above the standard increment based on their yearly evaluations.
“Although department policies allow for equity consideration to rectify such patterns and practices, Downes has never received an equity consideration that closes the aforementioned gender pay gap, and the department has never voted on a distribution of equity-based raises in [accordance] with department policies,” Downes’ attorney, Dawn Wall, wrote in the lawsuit.
Downes earned $120,000 for the 2019 fiscal year with $3,800 in additional compensation.
When Downes expressed her concerns with the current department chair, the chair reportedly rejected her concerns and refused to rectify the situation. He also allegedly threatened retaliation against Downes by suggesting that such comments could be the basis of a defamation lawsuit against her.
As is required before filing a lawsuit such as this one, Downes filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC). The EEOC was, “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.”
“This does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge,” the EEOC said.
This isn’t the first time a university has been accused of pay discrimination. In 2019, the University of Arizona agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Katrina Miranda, an associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry at the university’s College of Science.
In her lawsuit, Miranda claimed that the school had been underpaying its female faculty by tens of thousands of dollars every year in comparison to male faculty members. The suit also alleged that the university denied equal access to work resources and promotion.