University of Denver Settles Equal Pay Lawsuit

Last Updated by Philip Maravilla on

Lucy Marsh speaks with her lawyer moments after the University of Denver settled a pay equity lawsuit. Photo: Rocky Mountain PBS

The University of Denver will pay $2.66 million and immediately increase salaries to female law professors to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawsuit charged that the university violated federal law by paying its female law professors nearly $20,000 less per year, on average, than their male counterparts. The university acknowledged a pay disparity in a memo in 2012, yet failed to take corrective action.

The EEOC filed suit in 2016 on behalf of seven female law professors.

The consent decree settling the suit requires the university to publish annual salary and compensation information. The university must also hire a labor economist approved by the EEOC to conduct an yearly compensation equity study.

Under terms of the decree, an independent consultant will work with DU to revise its anti-discrimination policies.

The decree will remain in effect for six years. If the university complies with the terms of the agreement, the decree could end a year early.

DU law professor Lucy Marsh was the lead plaintiff in the case.

"DU has submitted to being monitored for six years," she told Rocky Mountain PBS in an interview after the settlement was announced. "So they have recognized that it is serious and this is not a one-time thing."

"I hope cases like these get the attention of all employers and lead them to not only review their pay practices, but take action to address discrimination when they find it,” said EEOC Acting Chair, Victoria A. Lipnic, in a statement released after a federal judge in Denver signed off on the decree.

In a statement, the University of Denver did not comment on the specifics of the settlement, saying: "We were able to reach a settlement that will not affect scholarships, financial aid or day-to-day operations of the University." The statement goes on to say: "While confident in our legal position, we were motivated to action by our strong desire to heal our community and move forward together."

Marsh told RMPBS that she made a point not to resign while pursuing the lawsuit. "It is not necessary for women to run away from the fight or to accept private settlements," she said. "It is time to make employers conform."

The case was the subject of an RMPBS investigation that found the university praised Marsh and used her name to raise money, while systematically paying her and female law professors less than their male counterparts year after year.

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