More than 50 years after late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sued Rutgers University over its unequal compensation of women, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) is wading into a fight with the school over the same issue.
Weinberg on Tuesday publicly backed an equal pay suit launched by the Rutgers branch of the AAUP-AFT and five of the university’s women professors who claim they’ve been paid tens of thousands of dollars less per year than men in similar positions.
“We should be the leader in this area,” Weinberg said. “We in the state of New Jersey are already the leader in the area in terms of the law we provided, and now our state university should be a leader in the area.”
The suit, made under the Diane Allen Equal Pay Act, charges the university systematically paid women professors, including at least two of the university’s distinguished professors, substantially less than male professors.
It alleges the University paid Nancy Wolff, a distinguished professor who serves as director of the Bloustein Center for Survey Research (BCSR), $40,352 and $65,405 less than two male professors at the Bloustein School during the current academic year.
At the same time, it paid a lower-ranking male professor who began working at the university five years after Wolff just $1,000 less than the BCSR director. The other petitioners reported similar pay gaps.
“Rutgers University has consistently and substantially paid me less than my male peers, who are doing comparable work,” she said. “In good faith nearly a year ago, I submitted an application to the Rutgers pay equity program, but like all other faculty who submitted such applications, I have yet to receive a response.”
Each of the four other professors who filed the suit — Judith Storch, Haydee Herrera-Guzman, Lisa Zeidner and Deepa Kumar — also filed pay equity applications with the university but said they received no response.
Under an agreement reached between Rutgers and the AAUP-AFT last year, those applications are supposed to be processed within 90 working days.
Though some government entities have equalized their employees’ compensation without legal action following the passage of the 2018 law, others have lagged.
Verona gave two female employees sizeable settlements, the first to be made under the law, in October, a week after the professors filed their suit.
“We’ve come forward to beef up this lawsuit so others can be spared the time, energy and financial burden,” Kumar said. “We want our example to shed a spotlight on the injustices at Rutgers so that our new president, Jonathan Holloway, can work to create a process where all faculty, and particularly faculty of historically oppressed groups, are treated with the respect we deserve and are paid a fair salary.”
(Disclosure: This reporter attended a class taught by Kumar while enrolled at Rutgers University)
Despite the push, there’s little information on how broad pay disparities are at the state’s universities. While Rutgers’ faculty union commissioned a study on the matter in 2018, other schools are just now launching the same.
Even now, Rutgers is paying litigation costs related to the suit. While Weinberg said she didn’t believe more legislation would be needed to stop that, she made clear she’d continue to batter the university from the bully pulpit until it relented.
“I don’t think we’re going to need any more laws, but we might need a few more spotlights and a few more press conferences like this,” Weinberg said.