Editor's note: This story previously stated that UO offered Freyd a $350,000 settlement, which did not include the $100,000 that the university will give to Freyd's non-profit. The article has been updated to reflect the full settlement amount of $450,000.
Recently retired psychology professor Jennifer Freyd and the University of Oregon agreed to a $450,000 settlement on July 16 for a lawsuit in which Freyd alleged gender pay discrimination. The settlement ends four years of litigation between the parties.
“We are pleased to put this litigation behind us and together affirm our continued commitment to uncover, acknowledge, and address gender inequity and other forms of discrimination,” Freyd and UO wrote in a joint statement.
UO law professor Beatrice Dohrn — who previously said a UO victory in court would “gut” the Equal Pay Act — said she believes the settlement was a good move by the university. She said not having a trial saves UO money and protects its past practices from scrutiny.
UO said $335,000 of the settlement will cover damages, and $15,000 will cover Freyd’s attorney fees. The rest will cover Freyd’s lost wages from the five to six years at issue. In addition, UO will donate $100,000 to Freyd’s non-profit, the Center for Institutional Courage.
“I think it's great that the university ends up supporting her institute,” Dohrn wrote in an email to the Emerald. She said the center studies public institutions, focusing on integrity which, she wrote, “UO has not been able to muster in this case.”
Freyd initially filed the lawsuit in 2017, after learning her male colleagues in the psychology department were making tens of thousands of dollars more than her, despite being the same rank. Freyd filed the lawsuit after she attempted to resolve the issue internally for three years, she previously told the Emerald.
In May 2019, Freyd brought the case to the Eugene U.S. District Court. Federal Judge Michael McShane dismissed her claims, deciding that Freyd did not do equal work to her male comparators.
Freyd appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court, which agreed that she performed the same “common core” of tasks as her male colleagues. However, it attributed the pay gap to retention raises, not gender discrimination.
In March 2021, the court decided that Freyd had enough evidence to proceed with her lawsuit. However, the settlement on July 16 means that there will be no trial.
“I just don't know why it had to take this long,” Dohrn wrote.