Court deals U setback in ongoing sexual discrimination suit

Maggie Hessel-Mial

In its third ruling on the case, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Wednesday the U.S. District Court’s acceptance of the University’s most recent appeal in a sexual discrimination lawsuit dating back to 1993.

Ian Maitland, a professor in the Carlson School of Management, filed suit alleging the University discriminated against male professors after a 1989 settlement in another sexual discrimination suit increased the salaries of female faculty members at the behest of the Board of Regents.

The University countered Maitland’s claims with two arguments.

First, the University said the Board of Regents acted in a legislative capacity and should be granted legislative immunity.

The University also claimed Congress historically hasn’t considered males when interpreting discrimination laws since the laws were written with the protection of women in mind.

Both arguments were overturned by the appeals court.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said the appeals court referred to an earlier decision regarding the Regents.

The court first denied the regents immunity in the case of Stanley v. McGraph, when the regents withdrew funding from The Minnesota Daily after a controversial satire appeared in the publication in 1979.

In response to the University’s second argument, the appeals court ruled both men and women are protected under sexual discrimination laws.

Maitland originally found fault with the 1989 settlement, stating the pay increases were unnecessary since a University study had earlier suggested men and women received equal pay.

He also said he thought the University settled to prevent lengthy litigation.

“I thought they should have settled on merit,” he said.

Rotenberg said several studies have been conducted on pay equity at the University, but their results remain inconclusive.

Maitland also disagreed with paying female faculty to make up for alleged sexual discrimination, because he said it validates the accusations and implies he and his male colleagues are guilty of
mistreatment.

“It seems outlandish,” he said.

He said he doubts the case is over.

“I believe the University has more arrows in their quiver,” he said.

Rotenberg said the University will now consider several options. He said they might once again appeal to the 8th Circuit with “other defenses,” adding, “We have a lot of things in our bag of tricks here.”

Rotenberg also mentioned the possibilities of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court or simply allowing the case to go to trial in the District Court.

“We always like a settlement where appropriate,” he said. “But I don’t know if that will happen.”

Rotenberg said that after all the judgments and levels of courts the case has seen, the core of the dispute remains the same.

“The underlying issue is whether or not the University is wrong in providing pay equity to women faculty members over the last 10 years to address alleged gender discrimination,” he said.

But Maitland said the principle of how people determine equality needs to be vindicated.

Maitland said, “I have problems with the diversity movement which makes what you are more important than what you know.”

 

Maggie Hessel-Mial
encourages comments at [email protected]
and Shira Kantor
encourages comments at
[email protected]