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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Profs. file lawsuit against NMU

The NMU College of Business is located in Cohodas Hall. 
NW Photo Archives
The NMU College of Business is located in Cohodas Hall. NW Photo Archives

A lawsuit filed Feb. 8 by four professors in NMU’s College of Business alleges the university discriminated against them on the basis of their gender by paying them less than their male counterparts in violation of federal gender discrimination and equal pay laws.

Claudia Hart, Carol Steinhaus, Karin Stulz and Margaret Vroman claim that the College of Business significantly underpays its female faculty compared to their male counterparts and denies them equal opportunities for tenure.

“NMU received the complaint February 13, 2019 and it is being reviewed by legal counsel,” Chief Marketing Officer Derek Hall said in a statement on behalf of the university. “As a practice, NMU will not comment concerning details of pending litigation or personnel matters.”

Of the 22 faculty members in the College of Business, 15 are male.

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Hart, Steinhaus and Vroman are the only female faculty members in the College of Business with the rank of professor and each currently earns approximately 9 percent less than male colleagues with the same title, according to the complaint.

Stulz is the only female faculty member in the College of Business with the rank of associate professor and currently makes approximately 39 percent less than the male associate professors on average, the complaint states.

Hart began working at NMU in August 1981 and is the longest-serving member in the College of Business. Steinhaus began working at NMU in August 2001 while Stulz was hired by NMU in 1989. Vroman started employment at NMU in 2008.

The complaint further claims the College of Business discriminates against female faculty by giving male faculty members preference in choosing the classes they teach, making it easier for male faculty to qualify for tenure and awarding tenure track positions to male faculty members instead of equally or more qualified female faculty members.

“NMU’s College of Business has fostered an environment in which male faculty members are treated better than female faculty members in regards to the terms and conditions of their employment,” the complaint states.

When the professors complained to administrators, male faculty members and administrators retaliated against the professors by disparaging their work, canceling their classes and programs or increasing their workloads without additional compensation, according to the complaint.

In September 2016, the four professors filed separate charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging the discriminations. According to the complaint, “the EEOC determined there is reasonable cause to believe that NMU violated” the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The suit alleges the average male salary in the College of Business “significantly exceeds” the average female salary across all ranks and disciplines over the last 12 years, despite the plaintiffs performing equal work under similar conditions.

In 2016, Hart and Steinhaus were the only female faculty members in the College of Business with the rank of professor and earned approximately 15 percent less than the male professors on average.

The same year, Vroman was the only female faculty member in the College of Business with the rank of associate professor and made approximately 19.5 percent less than the male associate professors on average.

Stulz was the only female faculty member in the College of Business in 2016 with the rank of assistant professor and earned approximately 71.5 percent less than the male assistant professors on average.

In August, the EEOC notified the plaintiffs and NMU of its determination and gave NMU an opportunity to remedy the alleged discriminatory practices through the EEOC reconciliation process.
NMU and the professors were not able to reach an agreement through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

“NMU officials did recently attend a conciliation meeting with an EEOC mediator seeking to resolve the fair employment complaint,” Hall said. “The complainants disregarded the EEOC suggested parameters for a possible settlement and thus no agreement was made and the process continues.”

The EEOC notified the plaintiffs by letter in December that their cases were referred to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for re- view to determine if the DOJ would bring a Title VII law- suit on their behalf.

The professors, represented by Sterling Attorneys at Law, P.C. of Bloomington Hills are requesting a trial by jury to resolve the complaints.

“NMU hopes to work towards a resolution in a timely manner,” Hall said. “Faculty salaries are dependent upon credentials, degrees, teaching area, and research and are based upon negotiated formulas with the faculty union. NMU officials comply with the collective bargaining agreement.”

The DOJ is still review- ing the findings of the EEOC and may also bring charges on its own.

Calls for comment from the plaintiffs and the College of Business were not returned.

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