Plaintiff Denied in MSU Gender Discrimination Suit

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Bozeman, MT—Last week, a female professor at Montana State University, who had charged the school with discrimination in the areas of promotion and pay, lost her case.

Aleksandra Vinogradov had claimed that the university discriminated against her because she is a woman. Vinogradov, an engineering professor, was denied tenure in 1997. She alleged that this denial was retaliation for her having complained about receiving less pay than her male colleagues.

Defense attorneys argued that since Vinogradov was granted tenure the next year, her allegation is meritless. Additionally, they said, she was offered a starting salary of $43,000, which was two thousand dollars higher than that offered to a male professor who started teaching at the same time she did.

“There is no discrimination based on gender,” said defense attorney Andy Forsythe. He argued that Vinogradov was difficult to work with, and that her complaint stems from the fact that pay raises were merit-based, and she did not merit a pay increase.

Casey Magan, an attorney for Vinogradov, claimed that since the university did not have uniform procedures in place for determining pay raises based on merit, the professor’s supervisors and colleagues were able to lobby against her and prevent her being granted more money.

Several witnesses, however, testified to the good character of Vinogradov’s supervisors, as well as claiming that Vinogradov’s behavior became difficult after she was denied tenure in 1997.

Magan told jurors that witnesses for the defense had a motive or agenda for testifying the way they did, since all monies granted to a department for raises are then distributed by the department head. If Vinogradov received more money, she argued, the men in the department would necessarily receive less.

In a statement made after the jury’s decision, Magan said, “This is a devastating loss, not only for Dr. Vinogradov, but for those unnamed women at the university who suffer in silence or will not speak for fear of reprisal.”

The trial, which lasted for ten days, took places in Montana’s Gallatin County District Court. The jury in the case was comprised on eight women and four men. Vinogradov and her attorneys would not comment as to whether or not they would appeal the decision.

 

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