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News Clips 08/08/2014
Professor files gender-discrimination suit against FAMU
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 08/07/14
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A Florida A&M University College of Law professor filed a lawsuit saying the school violated eight state and federal laws pertaining to gender discrimination and equal pay.
Associate professor Jennifer Smith said LeRoy Pernell, dean of the law school, hired men more often than women resulting in a disparity between the number of men and women on the faculty, and that male associate professors were paid more than their female counterparts, according to court documents.
The complaint, filed July 31 in Leon County court, names the FAMU Board of Trustees as the defendant.
Smith was hired as an associate professor in 2004 and teaches health law, civil procedures and other topics. She gained tenure in 2010. She has applied for promotion to full professor several times since, but has been denied each time. She was most recently denied full professor status as of July 25, when FAMU came out with a new round of tenure and promotion announcements, the filing said.
The complaint says she would have received a promotion to full professor in 2010 had it not been for her sex and that she was denied a second time for what she says was retaliation for her repeated complaints about gender discrimination and gender salary inequalities.
Smith said an administrator "sabotaged" her promotion efforts by replacing positive reviews of her scholarship with negative ones and told other administrators to ensure she was denied promotion.
The ABA report recommended the same administrator's demotion due to "the hostile work environment he created, specifically with respect to women." In September 2010, she filed a workplace-violence complaint against the administrator with campus police.
The filing also cited an American Bar Association report from September 2012 which stated the law school suffers from inequity in the manner it treats female faculty members.
Smith has filed multiple public records requests with FAMU "in order to show the pay and promotion disparities" and said an analysis found men were paid significantly more than women at the school. She said male professors performed similar work to female professors.
"Increased pay has not been based on superior skill, education or experience or any other legitimate factor," the complaint said.
Avery McKnight, FAMU's general counsel, said the university would not comment on Smith's suit.