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  • 标题:Female professor wins pay-bias appeal
  • 作者:Bradley, Gwendolyn
  • 期刊名称:Academe
  • 印刷版ISSN:0190-2946
  • 电子版ISSN:2162-5247
  • 出版年度:2000
  • 卷号:Nov/Dec 2000
  • 出版社:American Association of University Professors

Female professor wins pay-bias appeal

Bradley, Gwendolyn

A federal appeals court ruled on August 25 that Kent State University treated Dorothy Kovacevich unfairly by paying her less than a male faculty member with comparable experience and qualifications. The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit comes after a six-year legal battle, during which Kovacevich contended that she was discriminated against on the bases of age and gender. After unsuccessfully seeking redress through university channels, Kovacevich filed a discrimination charge in 1994. A jury found in her favor in 1997, the same year the AAUP honored her with its Georgina Smith Award for advancing women's rights. But a federal district court judge overturned the jury's decision in 1998.

At the time of her retirement in 1995, Kovacevich's annual salary was $5,999 less than that of a male colleague. Kovacevich was appointed to a tenure-track position in the College of Education at Kent State University in 1975, at a salary of $14,000, and she was granted tenure in 1978. In the same year, she applied for promotion to associate professor. She was turned down and reapplied three times over ten years before being promoted. Her male colleague, who was hired by the department in 1976 at an annual salary of $13,500, was promoted to associate professor in 1983 and received a pay raise as a result.

In addition to being promoted later, Kovacevich received less remuneration through Kent State's merit-pay system, which granted faculty members permanent pay increases in years when sufficient funds were available. Each time Kovacevich received merit increases, she received the minimum possible award, and on three occasions, the dean of the College of Education reduced or denied award amounts recommended by Kovacevich's department chair.

The appeals court ruled that Kovacevich produced "evidence showing that rather than a neutral system of merit based on anonymous peer evaluations, the merit award system was driven largely by an opaque decisionmaking process at the administrative level, did not necessarily reflect peers' assessment of applicants' performances, and rewarded men disproportionately to women."

The appeals court, which declined to reverse the lower court's rejection of Kovacevich's age discrimination claim, returned the case to the lower court for a determination of the award amount. Kent State had ninety days from the time of the ruling to decide whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Kent State professor Beth Swadener reports that, in addition to dealing with Kovacevich's suit, the university is negotiating a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor in a class-- action case involving women professors. Swadener is chair of the Kent State AAUP chapter's Committee on the Status of Women in the Academic Profession. A study by the committee on pay equity at Kent State found in 1994 that the university discriminated against women in both promotions and salary. The labor department agreed with the study's conclusions and began to assemble a case against the university.

Early efforts at conciliation fell through, Swadener says, and were resumed by the university only when it appeared that the case would go to court. The university and the labor department, Swadener reports, have been haggling over the wording of a settlement since spring 1999.

Copyright American Association of University Professors Nov/Dec 2000
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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