Morgan State University (MSU) Professor Leah Hollis has spent her career dealing with workplace bullying in higher education and how it affects people and women of color.
Now, Hollis is alleging in an amended federal lawsuit MSU paid her tens of thousands less than men in her department, denied her tenure, and blocked her promotion when she complained about unequal pay.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Maryland alleges Hollis’ situation is not isolated at the HBCU. According to the suit, MSU systematically denies Black women professors equal pay, promotions, and academic benefits.
“Dr. Hollis is far from the only Black woman faculty to be treated as a second-class citizen at Morgan State; she is just one of the few to complain publicly that to be a Black woman faculty in the School of Education and Urban Studies at Morgan State is to write more and publish more and yet be paid less, and be promoted less than male faculty,” the lawsuit states.
MSU officials have denied the claims and university spokesman Larry Jones declined to discuss the lawsuit citing a university practice.
The issue between Hollis and MSU has been going on since 2019, when her suit was initially filed.
In 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found “reasonable cause” to believe MSU discriminated against Hollis on the basis of gender and subjected her to unequal pay, a violation of the Equal Pay Act. Additionally, the commission also determined the university subjected her to unlawful retaliation including denying her tenure and threatening to fire her.
The university granted Hollis tenure in 2019, after she filed the EEOC complaint. MSU officials declined to promote her to a full professor in 2020 and 2021. School officials have denied giving her tenure due to the EEOC complaint.
Attorneys for MSU said university officials also declined the EEOC’s recommendation to resolve the dispute “because the proposed terms were inconsistent with the underlying facts of [Hollis’] hiring, the setting of her compensation, and the fact that she was granted tenure.”
According to the suit, Hollis was hired by MSU in 2014 at a salary of $60,000. Hollis’ resume includes a decade of teaching experience at the doctoral level, writing three books and co-authoring a fourth book. Today, her salary is $63,000, less than every male professor in her department including those at lower ranks and those hired after her.
The suit also alleges six women in the department receive unequal pay and two women who applied to be full professors between 2019 and 2021 were denied, while three male professors applied and were granted the promotions.