This story was updated on Friday, Oct. 4 to include a response from the University of Oregon.
A group of 47 women’s and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the California Women’s Law Center, filed a brief in support of University of Oregon professor Jennifer Freyd and her pay discrimination lawsuit against the UO, according to a post on the website of the lawfirm representing Freyd.
“The gender wage gap is not a myth or the product of women’s ‘choices.’ While occupational segregation—many men working in occupations with other men, and many women working with other women—is an important contributor to the gender wage gap, the disparity between women’s and men’s earnings cannot be explained solely by this phenomenon,” the 47 groups state in the brief.
When an organization or individual files a brief in support of a lawsuit, they are trying to sway the court to support their perspective and influence the decision made by the court, according to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.
The group also said that the inequity in pay between men and women “translates into lower lifetime pay and retirement security for women, less income for families, and higher rates of poverty.”
Freyd said in an interview with the Emerald that the support she has received inspires her keep fighting her case.
“On the one hand it’s reassuring that the way I’ve been doing this has been shared by so many respected organizations, but it’s also concerning that it is so hard to fix pay inequity,” Freyd said. “In universities where the mission statement and values are so much about equity and ethics and fairness, it’s particularly disheartening to have it be this difficult.”
Although a federal district court judge dismissed the case earlier, Freyd filed an appeal in May. The case now sits before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the law firm's post.
"The university appreciates the concerns raised by Professor Freyd and the advocacy groups who filed amici briefing for her case." UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis said in an emailed statement. "Based on the facts of this case and the different duties of the persons Professor Freyd chose as comparators in her lawsuit, we believe the Court correctly found that Professor Freyd is fairly compensated relative to her peers and that she therefore was not discriminated against."
Jarvis said the university will provide a "detailed analysis" in its response to the appeal, which is due Nov. 22.
Freyd, a respected researcher on the psychology of sexual violence, filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Oregon in May 2017, alleging that her pay was lower than that of her male coworkers who held the same or lesser positions because she is a woman.
Freyd said in court documents that she asked for a raise after analyzing the salaries of the professors in the Psychology Department. UO chose not to offer her a raise because her compensation was higher than other professors in the College of Arts and Sciences, of which the Department of Psychology is a part, according to court documents.
Freyd filed suit under the Equal Pay Act, which requires that men and women be paid equally for equal work, among other statutes.
In the university’s response, it said tenured faculty often perform duties that are too different to be comparable under the Equal Pay Act. UO also said that Freyd is paid more than other faculty members in her unit who perform comparable work, though she is paid less than some male coworkers.
The case was litigated in the Oregon U.S. District Court for two years, including two hearings and amended complaints, before the judge dismissed the case in May because he agreed with the university that Freyd’s work was too different from her male colleagues to be comparable, according to court documents.