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Profs lose ground in pay equity fight

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Four retired U of T professors have lost the first round of their struggle for pay compensation for alleged sexual discrimination, but the judge has left plenty of room for the next battle.The professors say the university enriched itself and discriminated against women faculty by paying them on average 20 per cent less than men. Justice Arthur Gans dismissed the women’s request to represent all women allegedly discriminated against at U of T, but he has left the door open to individual lawsuits.

“I feel the judge bent over backwards to be fair to us. He didn’t have one good thing to say about U of T and he’s opened the doors to mediation,” said Phyllis Grosskurth, who was joined by retired profs Cicely Watson, Ursula Franklin and Blanche van Ginkel in the case. “Each of us has a strong case to sue the university on enrichment.”

The judge found that the women have legal foundation for a lawsuit for unjust enrichment, and will allow evidence of systemic sexual discrimination to be put forth should the plaintiffs decide to fight individual cases.

The women are now considering whether to file lawsuits or go into mediation with U of T.

Susan Bloch-Nevitte, director of public affairs for U of T, says the decision to dismiss the suit leaves the question outstanding because the judge never discussed the merits of the case.

“We didn’t get a lot of clarity with respect to the claim.”

“We’ve let the lawyer for U of T know that we’re prepared to negotiate directly with them and we’re willing to be flexible,” said the professors’ lawyer Mary Eberts.

The plaintiffs prefer to negotiate a settlement with U of T, but refuse to have the U of T Faculty Association represent them, as U of T wishes.

“The university does its negotiating with the Faculty Association, which represents the women. I don’t see how the plaintiffs could negotiate with U of T,” stated Bloch-Nevitte. Van Ginkel disagrees, saying the faculty association has a lot on its plate already and it’s not their responsibility.

“It has nothing to do with them,” she said, adding that she plans on fighting sexual discrimination as a broader issue at the university.

“We’re less concerned about our own situation personally. It’s a matter of principle.”