Law professor files discrimination lawsuit against CU Boulder

A University of Colorado Boulder professor filed a lawsuit Friday against the university and a dean of the law school for discrimination and retaliation.

CU Boulder law professor Paul Campos alleges he was discriminated against with unequal pay because of his Latino ethnicity and punished for taking paternity leave as evidenced by a low annual review score. When Campos reported the discrimination to the university, he alleges he faced retaliation from the dean of the law school and the university.

“The University of Colorado Boulder recently became aware of the lawsuit Mr. Campos has filed against the university,” a CU Boulder spokesperson said. “As this lawsuit has just been served, the campus must review it and determine the appropriate course of action. As such, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Campos said he and his attorney, Dan Williams, explored every possible solution to avoid a lawsuit but that the university refused to negotiate.

“It’s a very unpleasant thing to sue your employer, especially when you’ve worked for them for 32 years,” Campos said. “I’m very, very deeply connected to this institution in all sorts of ways and to many of the people who have worked here over the years. And so it’s very sobering to have to take this step, it’s a step I really would have preferred not to take. But in the end, I feel as if we were really left with no choice.”

The lawsuit references a salary study done by CU Boulder in response to a 2021 salary audit that found CU Boulder faculty salaries to be inequitable. The university adjusted salaries by an average of $6,593 to comply with the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. According to the lawsuit, the university’s data analysis showed Campos was underpaid by $13,756 annually.

While salaries were adjusted Jan 1, 2022, the lawsuit said the university did not address back pay for the previous years of inequitable pay. The study also did not include endowed professorships, which offer additional pay compensation. The lawsuit said Campos is the only senior, tenured faculty member in the law school without an endowed professorship and alleges this is because of racial discrimination.

Campos also received a three out of five annual performance rating in 2022, which the lawsuit said is “an extremely low score,” and a low score compared to his previous score ratings. Campos alleges the score is in retaliation for him taking parental leave because his research and service are of high caliber. Campos filed an open records request, according to the lawsuit, in which he found only 2.3% of faculty between 2017 to 2021 received a three or lower, and there were no ratings below a three.

Campos approached Lolita Buckner Inniss, dean and provost’s professor of law, with his concerns and filed a complaint and request for investigation with the University’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance. In May 2022, he sent a letter through his attorney to the university’s legal team with his complaints, adding he would take legal action if necessary.

A few weeks after the letter was sent, Campos was removed from the Faculty Evaluation Committee and removed from teaching a class about property law in the spring 2023 semester, according to the lawsuit. Campos alleges the removals were retaliatory and harmful to his professional standing.

“Retaliation against employees for reporting discrimination is always unacceptable. Here, coming from the dean of a prominent law school, it is particularly disappointing,” Williams said. “This lawsuit aims to hold those accountable who should have been leaders standing against discrimination but instead who have chosen to perpetuate it.”

Campos said the decision to remove him from the class and the committee was in direct retaliation for him reporting the discrimination he allegedly faced and shown in email correspondence from Inniss noted in the lawsuit.

“Given your recent communications with me regarding your concerns with the law school evaluation process and your indication of possible litigation, I have removed you from the evaluations committee for the upcoming fiscal year,” Inniss said in the email.

Campos said the university continues to refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing in what happened and what continues to happen.

“I hope the outcome is at least some acknowledgement on the part of the institution of the mistreatment to which I’ve been subjected and some willingness on its part to ameliorate that mistreatment in terms of the conditions of my employment going forward,” Campos said.

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