Two Colleges Settle Age Discrimination Lawsuits

RejectedHigher education ranks behind Silicon Valley in terms of brazen and epidemic age discrimination in employment but there were two developments last week that may signal future change.

Attorneys for a 63-year-old former professor in women and gender studies (WGS) at Minnesota State University Moorhead announced that she will receive $150,000 in a settlement of her age discrimination case.

And the EEOC announced a $60,000 settlement in a 2014 lawsuit filed against City College of Chicago for refusing to hire a 66-year-old adjunct professor of English for a full-time faculty position.

Minnesota State University Moorhead 

Claudia Murphy had served as a professor in MSUM’s WGS program for more than six years when she claimed the university in 2015 required a PhD in WGS, which was not offered anywhere until 1995, as a way to exclude her from a prestigious position in the program. Murphy, who had a PhD in philosophy, was then  terminated.

The person hired for the job received her PhD in WGS in 2015.

According to her attorneys, the search committee agreed that a PhD in either WGS, feminist studies or a related field would be acceptable but its decision was overruled by Randy Cagle, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, who decided that only a terminal degree in WGS or feminist studies was acceptable. Murphy appealed to MSUM’s human resources department and university President Anne Blackhurst, but both declined to intervene. MSUM denied the allegation of age discrimination.

Murphy was represented by Schaefer Halleen, a Minneapolis law firm.

City College of Chicago

The EEOC announced a $60,000 settlement in a 2014 age discrimination lawsuit filed against City Colleges of Chicago for refusing to hire Nancy Sullivan, 66,  for a full-time faculty position.

According to the EEOC, Sullivan had worked there as an adjunct professor for five years and had a stellar record and excellent recommendations from several full-time faculty members. Nevertheless, she was passed over in favor of two substantially younger and less experienced candidates.

The settlement also mandates that City Colleges train its employees on age discrimination and report to EEOC any complaints of age discrimination it receives.

EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour said it was not the first time the EEOC had sued City Colleges for age discrimination. In 2006, the EEOC challenged an employment decision by City Colleges that was strikingly similar to one in Sullivan’s case. The EEOC charged that City Colleges violated the ADEA by refusing to hire another one of its adjunct instructors in its English department for a full-time faculty position. The earlier case was also was settled by consent decree.  Gochanour expressed hope that City Colleges will be vigilant going forward and will not let discrimination infect future employment decisions.

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