Former administrator's discrimination lawsuit against U.Va. dismissed

Assistant Vice Provost alleged unequal pay in a lawsuit in 2017

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Ackerson's case was dismissed with prejudice on Aug. 24, according to court documents.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

A discrimination lawsuit filed by a former University administrator was dismissed in federal court Aug. 24, indicating the matter was resolved and that the complaint cannot be brought back. 

The plaintiff, Betsy Ackerson, began working at the University in 2012 as project manager for strategic planning. Though the position she accepted was only temporary, she was later hired full-time by the University.

Then-Assistant Vice Provost Betsy Ackerson sued the University in February 2017 for gender and pay discrimination, claiming that the Board of Visitors knowingly paid her less than her male counterparts. 

The complaint accused the University of violating four federal laws — the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — that bar discrimination by gender, race or disability status.

Ackerson claimed that after she raised concerns about her unequal pay, the University retaliated against her by compromising her need for medical accommodations after she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome — stripping her of her private office while she was on medical leave — lowering her performance ratings and threatening to fire her.

She stated that her pay disparity began in the summer of 2013 when the her superior at the time — who was male — relied on her to perform the majority of the work for the strategic planning project. She also stated in her complaint that she was frequently expected to perform much of the senior vice provost’s work for him. 

According to Adam Carter, Ackerson’s attorney, Ackerson began discussing legal repercussions with the University in 2015. Carter referred to the situation as “a textbook case of employment discrimination and retaliation” in a release shortly after the case was filed.

The University originally denied the allegations. The suit alleged, however, that colleagues agreed she deserved an increased salary.

While Ackerson’s salary was raised from $70,000 to $110,000 over the course of her employment, the suit alleges she was still paid significantly less than several other high-ranking employees. Ackerson alleged that her superior then later hired a male employee to do the same job as Ackerson, but at a higher rate.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia Judge Norman K. Moon required in June that Ackerson trim her accusations of retaliation, though he said the University could not provide reasonable explanation for the pay disparity between Ackerson and her male counterpart.

The trial originally set for July was canceled by both parties and the University has since settled with Ackerson, according to court records. Ackerson is not currently employed with the University and now works for an private high school in Illinois.

Under Virginia’s open records laws, the University is not obligated to disclose the settlement. Representatives from the University have declined to share its terms multiple times. Ackerson’s attorneys did not respond to repeated request for comment.

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