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Princeton University Agrees To Nearly $1 Million In Back Pay To Female Professors

Oct 13, 2020

One of the nation's most prestigious universities has agreed to pay nearly $1 million in back pay to female professors following allegations of pay discrimination.

The Ivy League university will pay $925,000 in back pay and at least $250,000 in future wages, as part of an agreement announced by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The agreement resolves pay disparities uncovered by a multi-year investigation that affected more than 100 female full professors, the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said.

The federal government's investigation found between 2012 and 2014, pay disparities at the university "existed for 106 female employees in the full professor position," the Labor Department said.

If confirmed, those findings would appear to violate federal equal opportunity laws.

The New Jersey-based university entered what is known as an "early resolution conciliation agreement." A university spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement to NPR that it accepted the agreement to forgo what would likely be a costly and drawn out litigation process.

Princeton did not admit any liability in the investigation, Ben Chang, a spokesperson from Princeton, said in an emailed statement. He said that university officials did an internal analysis during the two year period the Labor Department says it was in violation, but found "no meaningful pay disparities based on gender."

"The University contested the OFCCP's allegation 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," he said.

Chang said the Labor Department began its review of Princeton almost a decade ago.

The university was notified that the government "was closing the review with no finding of discrimination," according to Chang, but he added that the OFCCP took up the review again for what he described as "unexplained reasons."

Princeton University will pay $925,000 in back pay and at least $250,000 in future wages as part of an agreement announced by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Daryl Solomon / Getty Images

As part of the agreement, Princeton is also going to "enhance future compliance proactively," according to the Labor Department, including conducting pay equity trainings and statistical analyses to see if disparities exist now.

"The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is satisfied that Princeton University has pursued an early resolution conciliation agreement, and addressed the issues found in our review," Craig E. Leen, the OFCCP's director, said in a statement.

"Early resolution conciliation agreements are an effective tool for contractors to ensure equitable pay to employees, enhance internal salary equity reviews, and proactively correct any disparities uncovered," Leen said.

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