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Regional Interests

Retired professor and University of Oregon settle longstanding lawsuit

Students walk across the University of Oregon campus on a rainy March day in this 2015 file photo.
Students walk across the University of Oregon campus on a rainy March day in this 2015 file photo.

Now-retired psychology professor Jennifer Freyd and the University of Oregon settled a roughly four-year legal battle Friday.

Freyd filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against UO in 2017, claiming the university was paying her unequally in comparison to male colleagues in her department who had similar or lesser experience.

In 2019, the court ruled in favor of the university. Freyd appealed that ruling and brought her case before the Ninth District Circuit Court of Appeals. That court partially sided with Freyd back in March, and greenlit a jury trial; though. The trial won’t occur now due to the settlement.

According to a joint statement Freyd and the university released Friday, the university agreed to pay her a total of $450,000. The bulk of that money, $350,000, will go toward Freyd and her attorneys to cover claims for damages and fees spanning the four-year lawsuit. The university also will make a $100,000 donation to the Center for Institutional Courage — a foundation Freyd founded.

“We are pleased to put this litigation behind us and together affirm our continued commitment to uncover, acknowledge and address gender inequity and other forms of discrimination,” the joint statement reads.

Over the past four years, Freyd gained support from UO faculty, students and alumni through petitions and open letters.

In an emailed statement Friday, Freyd said she was glad to have the case settled for multiple reasons:

“One is the time and freedom it provides me to pursue my work on institutional betrayal and institutional courage,” she said. “I am also glad for the financial support for the Center for Institutional Courage — a research and education nonprofit I founded in early 2020.”

Freyd said the Ninth Circuit’s decision in March to partially side with her sets important precedents.

“It affirms the applicability of the Equal Pay Act to academic and professional jobs,” she said. “The Ninth Circuit opinion also affirms that when employer practices like retention raises result in lower salaries for women, these practices may violate the law, even if the discriminatory outcome was unintentional.”

The UO specified in a news release online that of the $350,000 going directly to Freyd and her attorneys, $335,000 will go toward covering legal fees and emotional distress while the remaining $15,000 will represent lost wages from the period of time Freyd addressed in her lawsuit.

“We are grateful to have settled this case,” UO Vice President and General Counsel Kevin Reed said in a statement. “We wish professor Freyd well as a retired member of faculty and as she pursues her next endeavors.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting