Tentative Settlement Approved in Class-Action Lawsuit

Posted: December 7, 2000

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has reached a tentative settlement agreement with women faculty members at St. Cloud State University who alleged that they had been paid less than male faculty members.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank today gave preliminary approval to a proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by the women. Under the agreement, St. Cloud State University will pay $600,000 in back pay to 250 women who were on the faculty between 1992 and 1998. Sixty of the women who are current faculty members also will receive prospective pay increases totaling $170,786 per year. The agreement follows extensive mediation discussions between the parties.

"Although we disagree that women were paid less because of discrimination, we are pleased to have this faculty dispute resolved. We know that all the parties would rather devote their full attention to the benefit of our students," said Gail Olson, MnSCU's legal counsel. "We feel that it is in the university community's best interest to have this matter settled."

Olson said no acts of intentional discrimination were shown in the case.

"A trial would have resulted in a battle of experts over statistics on the salaries of hundreds of faculty members hired over a number of years and in a variety of departments," she said. "We wanted to avoid negative impact that a lengthy trial, probably lasting several months, would have had on the campus. This settlement allows us to move forward in a positive environment."

Five women faculty members filed a federal lawsuit against St. Cloud State University in March 1996 and were later joined by other faculty members. Their case was subsequently certified as a class-action lawsuit by the federal court. Four of the original plaintiffs in the case will recover an additional $60,000, bringing the total amount of the settlement agreement to $830,786.

Under the proposed settlement, St. Cloud State University will provide to all new faculty information about how their salaries will be determined. Still unresolved is the plaintiffs' demand for attorney's fees. That issue will be resolved in additional hearings before the district court.

Under a schedule outlined in the agreement, written notices will be mailed to members of the class and other interested parties Jan. 5, 2001. A period for filing objections to the agreement would end Feb. 9, with a final hearing on the proposed settlement set for March 16. Payments to eligible faculty would be made after final court approval.

Claims brought by several individual women faculty on other state university campuses are unaffected by this settlement.