A federal appeals court gave a male University of Minnesota professor the right to a trial Wednesday, nine years after he filed a reverse discrimination suit.
The ruling paves the way for Ian Maitland, a professor in the Carlson School of Management, to sue the University for a settlement it reached in 1980 with a group of female faculty members, granting them $3 million in salary increases.
Maitland said he is happy with the ruling.
“The court said it looks as if (the suit) could persuade a jury,” Maitland, who said he is representing himself.
The University now must decide whether to appeal to the appeals court system or to the Supreme Court. Wednesday’s ruling was decided unanimously by a three-judge panel. Maitland said an appeal would be unusual.
But the University has not made a decision yet. University general counsel Mark Rotenberg said the ruling is too fresh to judge.
“It is a disappointment for the University,” Rotenberg said. “The University has strived for years to achieve equity for their female employees.”
Maitland’s lawsuit grew from what is called the “Rajender” consent decree, named after Shyamala Rajender, the first woman to bring a sex discrimination suit against the University.
The decree prohibited discrimination against female employees in hiring, promotion and salary. Although it officially expired in 1991, the University Board of Regents voted in 1990 to uphold its spirit.
“In the ’80s, the University was swamped by sex discrimination litigation, all brought by the Rajender decree,” Maitland said.
Even though a University study found minimal difference between men and women’s pay, the University pursued a pro-settlement policy.
“They caved in to what was a special interest on campus,” Maitland said.
Maitland encountered a wall when he first sought legal representation for the suit. He talked to 12 different lawyers who declined to help him.
“It is not a politically correct lawsuit,” Maitland said. But he said a campus climate different from that of the lawsuit-heavy 1980s might give his suit a better chance.