An Oklahoma City University law professor has taken her fight for gender equity to federal court. Danne L. Johnson, an associate professor of law since 2003, is accusing the university and law school Dean Lawrence Hellman of sexual discrimination and violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963. She contends male law professors make as much as 52 percent more than their female counterparts at OCU. Thirteen of the school’s 32 full-time law professors are women. OCU officials declined comment on allegations by Johnson in the lawsuit filed Dec. 2 in federal court in Oklahoma City. "The university is disappointed that the lawsuit was filed, but will deal with the issues in a manner that it deems appropriate,” OCU officials said in a statement. "Oklahoma City University pledges to recruit, select and promote diversity by providing equality of opportunity in higher education for all persons, including faculty and employees with respect to hiring, continuation, promotion and tenure, applicants for admission, enrolled students, and graduates, without discrimination or segregation on the grounds of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, handicap or disability, sexual orientation or veteran status.”Comments
The lawsuitJohnson denies that pledge in a 24-page lawsuit, which details her and other female law professors’ complaints. Johnson complained to Hellman about the lack of racial or gender diversity on a Constitution Day panel in September 2007. All five professors on the panel were white men, according to the lawsuit. Johnson and three other female professors requested a meeting with Hellman and the university’s general counsel, William J. Conger, in October 2007. Conger explained the lack of female or minority panelists by calling the event "meaningless,” the suit states, while Hellman would not distribute an e-mail asking the faculty to be more mindful of diversity when choosing speakers and panel members. Hellman later dismissed the women’s complaint at a faculty meeting, according to the lawsuit. He also promised an investigation by an outside attorney into the allegations of sexual and racial discrimination, but the study ended with no report, according to the suit. While the investigation was stalled, Johnson complained a male law professor was promoted despite publishing nothing that he had written primarily while he was at the law school. Two years earlier, she had been told she could not be promoted under similar circumstances, she said. She also said she was treated with hostility once male faculty members were told four professors had complained of "sexual and racial discrimination.” It was easy to identify her as a complaining professor because she is one of two black faculty members, the lawsuit states. Johnson seeks unspecified damages and an injunction keeping OCU from discriminating against her based on her gender or race.