Former UO professor speaks out about wage gap lawsuit

"To really feel fully vindicated, I suppose you know, there'd be this public acknowledgement by all parties that pay inequity really is a problem, and really was impacting me actually for my whole career."

Posted: Jul 22, 2021 1:24 PM
Updated: Jul 22, 2021 7:45 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Throughout her entire career, former University of Oregon psychology professor Jennifer Freyd says she received less money than her male counterparts for her work.

In 2017, she says she filed a lawsuit against the university to help prevent similar issues from arising in the future.

"I was near the end of my career when I filed the lawsuit and I knew that my getting an increase in my annual salary wasn't going to have a big impact on my finances, but it would have been really nice for justice reasons and for hopefully a precedent for the people younger than me," Freyd said.

RELATED: UO REACHES $450,000 SETTLEMENT IN EQUAL PAY LAWSUIT WITH FORMER PROFESSOR

Her original lawsuit cites a 2016 study by the university's psychology department finding its male professors made about $25,000 more annually than its female professors.

In a settlement, the University of Oregon will pay Freyd $335,000 to cover legal expenses and emotional distress. It will also pay her $15,000 to make up for lost wages. In addition, the university will donate $100,000 to the Center for Institutional Courage, a nonprofit founded by Freyd in January 2020.

"Universities have not done the best job in supporting the kind of research that I think we need to be doing," Freyd said. "That is research that probes the responsibility of institutions themselves, and promotes in one way or another, creating the context where things like sexual violence thrive."

Freyd said this settlement is a step in the right direction, but there's still more she'd like to see happen in the future.

"To really feel fully vindicated, I suppose you know, there'd be this public acknowledgement by all parties that pay inequity really is a problem, and really was impacting me actually for my whole career," Freyd said.

Freyd said her case will be impactful in at least two ways. The first is at a practical level.

"It means that people who want to file lawsuits about pay inequity have a better chance now of their, their getting their, their day in court," Freyd said.

The second is by acting as a preventative measure.

"Employers have been put on notice to make sure that whatever they're doing, in terms of pay, that they're addressing equity as they're going along," Freyd said.

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