Professors settle age discrimination lawsuits against prominent universities.
Architecture professors Warren “Gerry” Gast and Hans Joachim Neis filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the University of Oregon and former College of Design Dean Christoph Lindner after Lindner attempted to have the two faculty members of the School of Architecture & Environment permanently relocated. They were to be reassigned from the Portland campus to the Eugene campus, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney Craig Crispin. A $170,000 settlement in the case has been finalized after two years of litigation.
Gast and Neis argued Lindner’s choice to move the “oldest Portland tenured faculty members” and to “retain younger and adjunct staff without credible justification was an act of age discrimination.” In a statement Gast said, “when the dean transferred the oldest Portland tenured faculty members and retained younger and adjunct staff without credible justification, we felt we owed it to the program and to our faculty colleagues in the department of architecture to take action…For example, graduate courses they normally taught in Portland were subsequently taught by less expensive part-time adjunct faculty.”
The University of Oregon did not admit any wrongdoing in settling the case, and responded after the agreement was reached, “For the reasons outlined in the university’s previously filed answers and the settlement agreements, the University of Oregon and former Dean Christoph Lindner disagree with the plaintiffs’ allegations. The settlements were made to eliminate the cost and inconvenience of proceeding through trial.”
The resolved grievances provide Gast and Neis with guaranteed employment at the Portland campus for at least two years. The settlement also allows the men to file a grievance if they are set to be transferred to Eugene at the end of the two-year period.
Last year, Ohio State University settled an age discrimination case with two female plaintiffs, Julianne Taaffe and Kathryn Moon, who’d claimed, “an administrator made disparaging age-related comments, while promoting younger, less experienced workers.” Court documents alleged the plaintiffs “had helped established the English as a second language program in the mid-80’s, and consistently received positive performance reviews. Nonetheless, they were passed over in favor of younger workers.”
After an email circulated disparaging their entire department with age-related comments, the women decided to take action. They filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which found “reasonable cause that discrimination in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)” had occurred. The ADEA makes it illegally to discriminate against workers older than forty years of age in employment standards, including hiring, promoting and terminating.
The women proceeded with a federal age discrimination lawsuit, and the case ultimately settled when the university agreed to pay significant back wages and damages. OSU paid out $765,000 and initiated a review of its policies and guidelines “for preventing and investigating discrimination to determine whether changes are required to better serve OSU’s employees.”
Still trying to hold the university accountable, however, the women submitted a follow up complaint against OSU with the Ohio Supreme Court in 2019, seeking access to public records from the school pertaining to the review, which they want to ensure is indeed underway.