A former employee of the University of California – Los Angeles has been awarded over $4 million after winning a sex discrimination case against the Regents of the University of California. The California Supreme Court has also announced that it will not hear the university’s appeal.
Janet Conney began working as an assistant clinical professor at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital in 1998. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which supported Conney’s case, her male supervisor was overly critical of her work and two other male co-workers made disparaging comments about her to other doctors and secretaries in the department. In 2001, Conney was told that promotions were unavailable and was reassigned to a part-time position with a significant pay cut. Her male co-workers, however, were offered promotions and were paid 50-100 percent more than her salary. During the court proceedings, it was discovered that her department had a “secret reserve of money” used to supplement the salaries of male faculty members, AAUW reports. In 2002, Conney’s contract was terminated. Following Conney’s complaints of sex discrimination, UCLA withheld her last paycheck and failed to pay her for accrued vacation time.
Conney pointed out the persistence of the glass ceiling, even though women are excelling in fields like academia, saying, “You start to realize that these obstacles loom very large for women. There is a glass ceiling… Women still bump into a lot of resistance when we try to truly become equal at higher levels.”
AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Interim Director Lisa Maatz echoed Conney’s message, saying, “Because women are taking advantage of educational opportunities in record numbers, there is a myth out there that higher education is a place where women have achieved equity… Janet’s case, and many others, shows that simply having large numbers of women on campus does not protect them from discrimination in academia or the workplace.”