Law school reaches $2.6 million settlement in equal pay suit

Seven female law professors at a Colorado university will receive a $2.6 million settlement and pay increases after federal officials filed a lawsuit against the women's employer for routinely paying higher salaries to their male colleagues.

A federal judge signed off on the settlement agreement Thursday between the University of Denver, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the professors.

The university didn't immediately respond to a request for comment but its lawyers were involved in writing the agreement.

According to the terms, the school must create a password-protected site listing Sturm College of Law faculty salaries, position, date of hire and demographic information. Names will not be included.

The school also must require employee training on discrimination and hire an outside consultant to study faculty pay each year.

The $2.6 million award includes back pay for the professors and attorneys' fees. The agreement also requires increased salaries for the professors starting this month but the amounts were sealed.

According to the original complaint, the law school's Dean Martin Katz, wrote a memo in December 2012 on faculty raises. Katz included information showing female full professors' median salary was about $11,000 less than male counterparts while the average female professor made nearly $16,000 less than male full professors.

Professor Lucy Marsh, who began working at the law school in 1976, met with Katz and then organized a broader meeting for other female law professors with the dean. According to the lawsuit, "Katz speculated ... that female Full Law Professors may be paid less because they were not performing as well as male Full Professors."

Marsh later filed a complaint with the EEOC, prompting the federal agency to review the dispute and file the lawsuit. Marsh and six other female professors then signed on as plaintiffs.

In court documents responding to the initial complaint, attorneys for the university denied the pay differences were based on sex alone and said it had not violated any laws on compensation.

According to court documents, attorneys began negotiations in January with a retired U.S. magistrate judge acting as mediator and asked the court in April to consider the proposed settlement.

The agreement is due to expire in five or six years, depending on an outside review of the university's compliance.