Tentative Settlements Approved in Class-Action Lawsuits

Posted: November 7, 2002

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

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

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank last week gave preliminary approval to the proposed settlements in class-action lawsuits brought by the women. Under the proposed agreement with Bemidji State University, 100 women faculty members will receive a total of $401,436.95 in back pay. Twenty-four of the women who are current faculty members also will receive prospective pay increases totaling $113,273 per year. The proposed agreement between women faculty members and Minnesota State University Moorhead will divide back pay of $512,076.19 among 177 women faculty members; 44 current women faculty members will receive a total of $204,199 in prospective pay increases. The agreements follow extensive mediation discussions between the parties.

"Although we disagree that women were paid less because of discriminatory actions, 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 best interests of both these university communities to have these matters settled."

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

"Trials in these cases 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 the negative impact that lengthy trials, probably lasting several months, would have had on the campuses. These settlements allow us to move forward in a positive environment."

A similar lawsuit by women faculty members against St. Cloud State University was settled earlier this year. Four of the original plaintiffs in the Moorhead case will recover an additional $20,000; the named plaintiff in the Bemidji lawsuit will receive an additional $10,000. The settlements also call for payments of attorney's fees and costs totaling $755,000.

Under a schedule outlined in the agreement, written notices will be mailed to members of the class and other interested parties in the next week. A period for filing objections to the agreement will end with a final hearing on the proposed settlement set for January 4, 2002. 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.