Law prof presses male sex-bias allegations in new suit after federal judge tosses his Title IX claim
A professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law has filed a new lawsuit against the school stemming from a former associate dean’s alleged comments in 2016 that she didn’t want to see white men teaching anymore in the trial advocacy program that he headed. (Photo by Coopersmith, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Updated: A professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law has filed a new lawsuit against the school stemming from a former associate dean’s alleged comments in 2016 that she didn’t want to see white men teaching anymore in the trial advocacy program that he headed.
Law professor David Schott alleges in his Feb. 2 suit that he notified the law school dean of the alleged comments by Viva Moffat, the associate dean of academic affairs. In the years that followed, he was subjected to a “steady barrage of adverse actions and false statements,” the suit contends.
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The adverse actions culminated with the law school’s failure to renew Schott’s seven-year contract, which should have taken effect in the 2020-2021 school year. As a result, the suit says, Schott was relegated “to the status of an at-will employee and [deprived] of the procedural protections to which he would be entitled as a member of DU’s long-term contract faculty.”
Schott alleges breach of contract, defamation, gross negligence, violations of Colorado wage law and sex-based wage discrimination under the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.
Schott filed the suit in state court in Denver less than a month after a federal judge tossed his prior suit alleging that his teaching contract was not renewed because he is a man.
The federal judge ruled Jan. 4 that Schott had not shown a “materially adverse” action because his employment had not significantly changed. Schott “has not sought medical treatment, has not been fired, his pay has not been reduced, and he has received merit raises from the university in the years following the 2016 allegations and his contract nonrenewal,” wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello of the District of Colorado.
Arguello declined to rule on 10 other claims in the federal suit because they involve state law, rather than federal law, according to the Denver Post. Schott’s lawyers have filed notice that they will appeal Arguello’s decision.
Both suits cite comments by Moffat, who allegedly told Schott that she wanted to “see friendly faces, faces of minority women, preferably African-American women.” Schott’s new suit alleges tortious interference with a contract by Moffat.
Shortly after Moffat’s comments, she informed Schott that there had been reports of gender discrimination in the Center for Advocacy at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Those reports were “utterly unfounded” according to the new suit.
One unfounded allegation involved a female professor from another law school who told four female students that they sounded “b- - - -y” during a summer program in Scotland, the suit says. The other involved an allegation that a female student was asked whether she could make the required time commitment when she tried out for for the law school’s national trial team. Everyone was asked this question, the suit says.
Schott requested a formal hearing on the allegations, but it was denied. He was later presented with a “statement of expectations” with five action items that he must carry out because of the gender discrimination allegations.
Schott developed a “plan of action” that substantially complied with the statement of expectations, and it was fully carried out, the suit says. He heard nothing more about his plan from university officials, until the allegations were later used to improperly deny renewal of his teaching contract, Schott’s suit says.
Before the contract renewal, Moffat allegedly reported that she had heard from female students about the “b- - - -y” comment, as well as hearing concerns that female students were asked about personal relationships, one female student was asked whether her husband approved of her participation on the advocacy team, and one student thought that she had to choose between the team and her academic/legal future.
The allegations about the “b- - - -y” comment and husband approval were already part of the Title IX complaint, which was dismissed without a finding of wrongdoing, the suit says. The other allegations were false or made with reckless disregard of their truthfulness, the suit says.
Schott also claimed that he reached a verbal deal with the law school to teach additional classes in exchange for a year in which he would be relieved of his teaching duties, but the school did not live up to the agreement after he increased his teaching duties.
Beginning in 2021, Scott’s annual salary was $115,609, which included his base salary and a stipend for working as the director of the school’s Center for Advocacy. The amount is less than the compensation received by female practice professors, the suit says.
Updated Feb. 7 at 3:40 p.m. to report that law professor David Schott’s lawyers have filed notice that they will appeal Senior U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello’s decision.