ABOR faces gender discrimination collective action lawsuit, complaint says

ABOR faces gender discrimination collective action lawsuit, complaint says
Dr. Patricia MacCorquodale (Source: YouTube/UA Honors)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A $2 million collective action lawsuit claiming gender discrimination was filed, according to the attorney, against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) on Monday, Jan. 22.

The lawsuit claims an Honors College leader at the University of Arizona (UA) was paid "dramatically less" than male deans at the university.

The lawsuit, filed by Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, was on behalf of long-serving Professor of Women's Studies and Honors College Dean Emerita Dr. Patricia MacCorquodale, as well as other similarly situated female deans on staff.

The complaint alleges that ABOR failed to adequately pay Dr. MacCorquodale during her tenure, relative to male deans at the university and to her male successors at the Honors College. Dr. MacCorquodale has been employed with the UA since 1978, according to the news release from her attorney.

"Despite the fact that Dr. MacCorquodale consistently complained about her unfairly low salary, neither the Provost nor the Regents did anything to address the disparity. Not only did the University drastically underpay Dean MacCorquodale, it added insult to injury by terminating her deanship in 2016, in retaliation for her ongoing advocacy for pay equal to that of male deans on the UA campus," said attorney David Sanford in a written statement.

We called Dr. MacCorquodale and requested an interview with the professor. She declined and referred us to her attorney.

The news release states that when the UA, "appointed Elliott Cheu as the interim Honors College dean after Dean MacCorquodale's termination, he was paid an annual salary more than $100,000 higher than Dr. MacCorquodale had been paid in her final year as dean." It alleges that Dr. MacCorquodale's permanent successor, Terry Hunt who was appointed in July 2017, is paid nearly $70,000 more annually despite having considerably less experience.

The complaint and news release specifically points a finger at Provost Andrew C. Comrie as perpetuating, "a culture that marginalizes, demeans, and undervalues women," they said.

When asked for a response to the allegations listed in the lawsuit, ABOR Director of Communications Julie Newberg said in a written statement, "We don't have comments on pending litigation."

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, we learned Dr. Comrie was stepping down from his position of provost, having served for more than five years, according to an email to all staff from UA President Dr. Robert Robbins.

The email states Dr. Comrie had been discussing an approach to the transition for the last few weeks and he would be returning to a faculty role in the School of Geography and Development.

Dr. Jeffrey B. Goldberg was appointed as Acting Provost during the transition set to take place no later than March 5, Dr. Robbins stated. Dr. Goldberg is the Dean of the College of Engineering.

When asked by Tucson News Now, university communications staff denied that Comrie's decision and the lawsuit were connected.

"Provost Comrie stepping down and the lawsuit filed yesterday are totally unrelated," UA External Communications AVP Pam Scott said in an email response. Scott explained that they had not seen the lawsuit that was filed by the time the decision was made regarding Provost Comrie, and that he had been working on his return to faculty since the semester break in December.

The attorneys of Dr. MacCorquodale are seeking an injunction against ABOR, "to prevent further conduct violating Dr. MacCorquodale's rights and the rights of other collective class members."

They are also seeking an adjustment to the wage rates and benefits, along with back pay, front pay, and other damages for lost compensation to the professor and the others involved in the lawsuit, the news release stated. They are seeking a jury trial.

WANT MORE? Download the Tucson News Now app for Apple and Android devices.

Copyright 2018 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.