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NMU to pay $1.46M in lawsuit: Suit alleged gender discrimination

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University has paid $1.46 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit.

The announcement was made on Thursday by the firm representing the professors, Sterling Attorneys at Law, P.C., based in downstate Bloomfield Hills.

In February 2019, Sterling filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four female professors from NMU’s College of Business alleging they suffered gender discrimination and disparate pay compared with their male colleagues.

About seven weeks before the trial was scheduled to take place in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, the professors reached a settlement with NMU.

As a condition of the pre-trial settlement, the university paid $1.46 million to professors Claudia L. Hart, Carol S. Steinhaus, Karin M. Stulz and Margaret E. Vroman. Sterling said it is among the largest pre-trial settlements for a gender discrimination case in the United States.

“The professors are very pleased with this settlement and hope that it encourages others to stand up for gender equity and fairness in the workplace,” said the professors’ attorney, Brian J. Farrar, in a statement.

Hart also issued a statement.

“We encourage women and men in positions of authority to take a stand and support justice in their workplaces,” she said. “Individuals struggle to fight injustice alone.”

Stulz said in a statement, “We have been fortunate to have friends, family and complete strangers stand by us and our cause for equal pay for equal work. We hope to inspire others to pursue justice.”

Steinhaus acknowledged all the “wonderful NMU students” she has taught during her career.

Vroman said in a statement, “Although it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point, it will all be worth it if it results in positive change in pay and attitudes.”

Sterling said NMU has denied any liability or wrongdoing.

NMU issued a statement regarding the settlement.

“NMU is pleased to have reached a voluntary and amicable settlement with four former College of Business faculty,” it said. “The settlement allows the university to move ahead in the best interest of the students. NMU wishes the faculty well in their retirements.

“To the extent the faculty members’ lawyer intends to imply that the settlement could be viewed as evidence of any wrongdoing by NMU, NMU would like to point out that each of the faculty members expressly agreed to the following statement: ‘The Parties acknowledge, represent and agree that this Agreement is not intended to be, and shall not be construed as, an admission of fault or liability, to any extent whatsoever, by any Party.'”

All NMU faculty salaries are set according to collective bargaining agreements with the faculty union, the university said.

“Northern Michigan University is committed to equity and inclusiveness, two integral components at the core of who we are as a community,” President Fritz Erickson said in the statement.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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