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University of Texas at Austin Must Pay $3M to Settle Pregnancy Discrimination Suit

— March 22, 2022

A jury recently ruled that the University of Texas at Austin must pay $3 million to an engineering professor to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.

Earlier this week, a federal jury ruled that the University of Texas at Austin must fork over $3 million to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by an engineering professor. According to the jury’s ruling, the “school discriminated against her based on her sex and the fact she was pregnant prior to being considered for tenure.”

Lecture Hall
Lecture Hall; image courtesy of Wokandapix via Pixabay,

The suit was filed on behalf of Evdokia Nikolova. Nikolova is still employed with the university and works as an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department. As part of the recent jury ruling, she was awarded “$1 million for past pain and suffering and $2 million in future damages, plus $50,000 in back pay and benefits.” It’s important to note that a judge still has to approve the verdict.

What happened, though? Well, according to the suit, Nikolova “applied for tenure during the 2018-2019 academic year after working nearly five years at UT-Austin and two years at Texas A&M University.” She had allegedly been told that her “teaching experience at Texas A&M could be counted toward her total time as a professor, which is not UT-Austin policy,” the suit noted.

Despite the Cockrell School of Engineering unanimously approving her for tenure, “Sharon Wood — the current UT-Austin provost and former dean of the engineering school — denied the tenure request arguing that Nikolova did not have requisite years of teaching to be considered for it,” according to the suit. Wood further noted that “tenure requests typically occur after a professor has taught for seven years…but Nikolova had taken a probationary extension and modified instructional duty for pregnancy and childbirth during the 2015-2016 year and therefore was making the request too early.”

What is a probationary extension? For starters, it allows assistant professors at the university to have an additional year during the tenure review period when they have a new child. Additionally, “professors who have a new child or adopt a child can take modified instructional duty, which allows them to not teach for a semester.” Wood stated:

“[I]f this were an up-or-out case, I would likely agree with the recommendation of the Promotion and Tenure committee. However, Dr. Nikolova is being considered for promotion at UT Austin two years early.”

Nikolova filed her lawsuit against the university in 2019. She was represented by Bob Schmidt. When commenting on the jury’s recent decision, he said:

“Discrimination against women and mothers is still real in our society in general…If discrimination goes unchecked, if it’s just allowed to be looked over at UT-Austin — which is one of our state’s most powerful, big institutions and universities — then it can happen anywhere.”


Jury awards professor $3 million in pregnancy and sex discrimination suit against UT-Austin

Jury awards $3 million to UT engineering professor in pregnancy, sex discrimination suit

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