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Princeton University Settles Pay Discrimination Lawsuit for Nearly $1.2 Million

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On October 5, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that a settlement was reached with Princeton University in a compensation discrimination case brought by the DOL against the University. According to the early resolution conciliation, the University will reimburse the 106 affected female professors $925,000 in back pay and offer at least $250,000 for future salary adjustments. Princeton spokesperson, Ben Chang, said that the institution is not admitting liability but made the agreement to avoid a lengthy and costly litigation process.

The investigation was initiated on January 31, 2014, as part of an ordinary review under the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The evaluation studied the school’s compensation practices for all academic and non-academic employees from 2012 to 2014. Its preliminary findings noted blatant disparities in the salaries of women professors compared to their male counterparts.

Although the OFCCP said its model considered certain factors, such as department, full-time status, highest degree earned, and years of experience, Chang disputed the review’s findings, “because it was based on a flawed statistical model that grouped all full professors together regardless of department and thus bore no resemblance to how the University actually hires, evaluates, and compensates its faculty.” The review was paused in 2016 and then reopened in 2017 for reasons that were not clarified, according to Chang.

Two technical violations were also discovered by the OFCCP involving the failure to “collect and maintain personnel and employment records” and to “conduct adverse impact analyses.” Despite denying both of the violations, Princeton invested $628,000 to develop a new selection process system in 2015 for tracking employment applicants and new hires by race, ethnicity, and gender.

Wage Laws for New Jersey Employers

Although this pay gap case was handled under the federal equal opportunity law, New Jersey employers who enter into contracts with the state have one of the most staunch equal pay laws in the country to adhere to. The Diane B. Allen New Jersey Equal Pay Act went into effect on July 1, 2018, and it states that employees who are in the protected categories covered under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination must receive equal pay and benefits, and employers must implement and maintain a plan to comply with the law or face steep penalties.

Another law enacted on January 1, 2020, was an additional step toward preventing wage discrimination based on gender, race, and age by banning New Jersey employers from asking applicants from outside the organization to disclose their previous salary or benefits information or require that it meet a certain minimum or maximum range.

The argument for the law is that it will help curtail continuous underpayment and wage discrimination by hiring and compensating people for their qualifications and experience and not according to their previous pay.

Compensation Discrimination Attorneys Ready to Help

If you believe you have experienced unfair pay inequities in the workplace, the employment law attorneys at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. welcome the opportunity to evaluate your case for a discrimination lawsuit. We want to help you get the justice you deserve, so don’t hesitate to contact us today at (856) 817-6221 for a free consultation.