Employment Law Daily 73-year-old white professor sues Tuskegee University for age, race discrimination
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Monday, July 29, 2019

73-year-old white professor sues Tuskegee University for age, race discrimination

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Since 1980, when he became a full professor, the school has continued to give him only associate-level pay, while younger African-American colleagues are paid 30-50 percent more.

A 73-year-old white male physics professor is suing Tuskegee University for subjecting him to alleged race, national origin, and age discrimination by failing to raise his pay beyond that of an associate-level professor despite the fact that he became a full professor in 1980. He contends that younger professors, who are also a different race or color than him—mostly African-American—are paid 30-50 percent more.

The plaintiff alleges that for virtually every semester he taught during the past 42 years he has received the highest student evaluations and been named one of the top five faculty members of the year. He published a textbook (in 1989) used by many colleges and universities across the country; his scholarship and white race (and that textbook) helped Tuskegee gain additional funding from Alabama’s conservative legislators, according to the complaint.

The professor also complains that he was denied sabbatical—requested a year in advance—to write another textbook that would have brought both him and the university great credit.

The plaintiff alleges that he has sought upward salary adjustments no less than a dozen times, yet these requests were ignored, with his salary remaining at the associate professor level.

The complaint raises claims under Title VII, Section 1981, and the ADEA. The professor is seeking, among other things, increased salary and benefits, back pay, and double damages under the ADEA, and compensatory damages, including for mental anguish, under Title VII and Section 1981.

The lawsuit, Burns v. Tuskegee University, was filed in the Middle District of Alabama; the case is No. 3:19-CV-00509.

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