Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tufts Professor Sues For Sex Discrimination

A former department chairwoman at Tufts University's dental school is suing for sex discrimination and retaliation, alleging she earned a lower salary than a male counterpart. The plaintiff, Catherine Hayes, was chairwoman of the Department of Public Health and Community Service at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine from August 2006 to September 2010. She filed the case, Hayes v. Tufts University, in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Oct. 28. Her legal claims include violation of Massachusetts and federal gender discrimination laws, violation of the Massachusetts and federal equal pay acts, retaliation under state and federal anti-discrimination and equal pay laws and interference with rights under the Massachusetts anti-discrimination law. The defendants include Tufts, its dental school, the current dental school dean, and the dental school's executive associate dean.

The lawsuit alleges that, in the midst of a salary dispute with the dental school, Hayes learned that the chairman of the school's pediatric dentistry department was earning $250,000 per year. The lawsuit claims he was hired at the same time as Hayes but at a lower full-time equivalent. At the time, Hayes earned $184,000 per year. The lawsuit also alleges that Hayes' department includes seven divisions employing 115 faculty and staffers compared to the two divisions and 16 employees in the pediatrics department - implying that Hayes had greater duties and responsibilities (and therefore should have been paid at least as much as her male counterpart). The lawsuit also alleges that Hayes' relationship with her dean and executive associate dean "began to suffer immediately after she brought her concerns to them in April 2009." The dean and executive associate dean allegedly cancelled meetings, excluded Hayes from hiring and salary decisions about new employee, sand cut her out of fiscal 2011 budget discussions.

The lawsuit also alleges damage to Hayes' character. By way of example, the lawsuit alleges that a university office of equal opportunity investigation made incorrect findings that "impugned her character." Hayes also claims that the dean made misstatements about her actions related to a joint project with the Tufts University School of Medicine. She also claims that the defendants improperly and publicly accused her of running a budget deficit in her department in the fall of 2009. According to the lawsuit, their conclusion was based on failing to count existing grant funding and placing faculty costs from another department into her budget. The lawsuit further alleges that, after Hayes also began a doctor-approved medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act in July 2010 because of work-related stress, the defendants engaged in surveillance of Hayes and her activities and sent her harassing e-mail. After Hayes returned to work in August 2010, the defendants denied her request for an additional week of medical leave, and she resigned in September 2010.