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While law school professors are not known for being underpaid, Lucy Marsh, a full professor at the University of Denver law school, was certain something wasn't right.
So she, and six others, sued the school alleging unequal pay and gender discrimination. At first, the law school said she was paid less because of "substandard scholarship, teaching and service." But now theuniversity has agreed to pay $2.66 million to settle the case.
Marsh has taught at Sturm College of Law since 1973, becoming a full professor in 1982. She won multiple awards for teaching, and eventually became the second most-senior professor there.
But she discovered in 2012 that she was paid $40,000 less than the median -- the lowest-paid professor at the law school. She also found out that female professors were paid about $16,000 a year less than male professors.
Six other women joined Marsh and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The rest soon became history that the school isn't likely to forget anytime soon.
"My hope is that this case will put law schools and other employers everywhere on notice that the EEOC means business -- and that women will no longer put up with being paid less than men," Marsh said in a press release.
Before the litigation, she and other female professors fought quietly for equal pay. Although Marsh never asked for a pay raise, her predecessor in the cause did ask for changes.
Ann Scales, a founder in feminist legal theory, asked the school to earmark money for gender equity. She died in 2012, however, and Marsh took up the cause when the law school refused demands.
In addition to compensating the professors for back pay, the university has agreed to hire an outside consultant to monitor gender discrimination and a labor economist to do annual pay-equity studies at the law school.
"We believe this settlement will allow us to collectively focus on a present and a future in which the law school -- and the DU community as a whole -- can unite under our common values of equity, integrity and opportunity," DU spokeswoman Theresa Ahrens said.