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Summy-Long v. Pennsylvania State University

March 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)


Before the Court is Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). (Doc. No. 41.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe before the Court for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff, Joan Y. Summy-Long, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Pharmacology with the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania ("COM"), a division of the Pennsylvania State University ("PSU"). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff has held a faculty position at COM since 1978. (Doc. No. 43 ¶ 2.) In her complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendants have engaged in gender discrimination with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, and privileges of employment for a period in excess of 20 years. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 20.)

The College of Medicine's Compensation System

COM faculty receive a base salary, which is reviewed annually. Base salaries are augmented annually pursuant to a University-wide salary increase percentage established by the PSU President. (Doc. No. 43 ¶¶ 35-43.) Upon promotions from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor and from Associate Professor to Professor, faculty members typically receive an eight percent base salary increase. (Id. ¶ 41.) An individual professor's base salary may also be increased by a "research incentive," which is an additional amount based on the level of external grant funding obtained by the faculty member under review. (Id. ¶ 48.)

Faculty Senate Salary Studies

Over the years, multiple reports and analyses have been undertaken to address salary disparity and compensation at PSU and COM. In the years 1984, 1996-1999, 2001, and 2003, the Penn State Faculty Senate ("Senate") conducted salary reports to which all professors at PSU had access. (Id. ¶ 65.)

The 1984 study noted a gender-based disparity in salary of between $500 and $1,000, but COM faculty was not included in the study. (Id. ¶¶ 71-74.) The 1996 report provided mean and median salary figures for standing faculty members at COM for the academic year beginning in 1994. Plaintiff's salary was lower than the mean salary reported for COM professors. (Id. ¶¶ 75-78.) The 1997 study, which also included COM faculty, observed "no significant differences" in salary by gender throughout the University "with the exception of Hershey [COM] where male faculty appeared to have notably higher salaries." (Id. ¶¶ 80-82.) In 1998, the Senate released a COM addendum to its 1997 report that addressed only COM salaries. (Id. ¶¶ 84-85.) The report confirmed the finding that there was an unexplainable difference in salaries between men and women. (Id. ¶ 89.) The addendum added that the differences "appear to be significant and do not appear to be explained by time in rank or the proportion of men/women in clinical departments." (Id. ¶ 90.) In 1999, the Senate released another report that recognized a salary disparity between genders and acknowledged that the difference could not be fully explained by differences in years in rank. (Id. ¶ 95.) Plaintiff acknowledges that she was aware of the results of the 1997 and 1999 salary studies by June 30, 2001, at the latest. (Id. ¶ 96.)

Another report was released in 2001. The 2001 report disclosed the mean and median salaries of COM science faculty during the 2000-2001 academic year. (Id. ¶ 98.) During that academic year, Plaintiff's salary was more than $15,000 lower than the mean salary for COM basic science professors. (Id. ¶ 99.) In 2003, the Senate released another salary report that provided mean salary data for COM faculty, this time for the 2002-2003 academic year. (Id. ¶ 101.) The 2003 report did not delineate salary data on the basis of gender. (Id.) The tables in the report demonstrated, however, that Plaintiff's salary was more than $20,000 lower than the mean salary reported for standing COM professors with a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree, and $15,000 lower than other Pharmacology Professors at COM. (Id. ¶¶ 102, 106.)

The Commission for Women

The Commission for Women ("CFW") is a University-wide group that advises the President of the University on matters affecting women at PSU. (Id. ¶ 69.) Plaintiff served as a member of the CFW from July 1998 through June 2001. (Id. ¶ 70.) In 1999, the CFW issued a salary report that analyzed salaries for the academic year ending in 1998. (Id. ¶ 108.) The report concluded that no significant differences in salaries due to gender were found at University Park, but that females at non-University Park locations earned significantly lower salaries than males. (Id. ¶¶ 108-09.) COM salaries were not included in this analysis because "the high salaries and large number of male faculty in the College of Medicine skewed the analysis too much." (Id. ¶ 110.)

Human Resources Team

Plaintiff also served on an administrative group designed to address human resources issues called COM's Human Resources Team ("HRT"). (Id. ¶ 167.) On December 20, 2000, Plaintiff made a presentation to the HRT regarding COM faculty salaries. (Id. ¶ 169.) At that time, she also prepared a report on gender differences in faculty salaries in COM, which outlined strategies to "correct . . . gender differences in salary." (Id. ¶¶ 170-71.) The HRT wrote a letter to Vice Dean for Faculty and Administrative Affairs Dr. Kevin Grigsby ("Grigsby") on July 10, 2001, requesting that an external salary study be conducted to remedy what other studies had identified as "salary inequities for basic scientists at the College of Medicine." (Id. ¶¶ 219-20.)

The Women's Faculty Group

Plaintiff, along with another doctor at COM, formed the Women's Faculty Group ("WFG") in 1999 to advocate for issues affecting women faculty. (Id. ¶¶ 174-75.) Shortly after its formation, WFG identified salary equity for women faculty as an important concern. (Id. ¶ 178.) In August of 2000, WFG discussed the disparate salary compensation issue at a meeting with COM Dean Darrell Kirch ("Dean Kirch") and again with Grigsby in October of that year. (Id. ¶¶ 180-85.).

In 2000, the University's Affirmative Action Office ("AAO") conducted an analysis of faculty salaries within COM's basic science departments. (Id. ¶ 188.) The study, released on July 21, 2000, concluded that "sex is not a significant factor in explaining salary in this population and there is no indication of systemic bias on the basis of sex." (Id. ¶¶ 189, 191.) WFG members did not accept the accuracy of this study. Instead, in a January 2001 memorandum addressed to Grigsby, WFG questioned the results of the 2000 AAO study in light of the previously-conducted studies by the Senate which had shown a gender bias to exist. (Id. ¶¶ 199-201).

In March of 2001, Wayne Zolko ("Zolko"), COM Controller, held a Faculty meeting where he presented mean and median salary figures for all COM scientists, categorized by the rank of Professor, Associate Professor, and Assistant Professor. (Id. ¶¶ 204-06). Following the meeting, Dr. Kathryn LaNoue ("LaNoue"), a WFG member, prepared a chart displaying the median and mean salary data reported by Zolko, and she asked each female faculty member to mark where her salary fell in comparison to the mean and median data. (Id. ¶¶ 207-08). Twenty of the twenty-two female faculty members who identified their salary on LaNoue's graph had a salary below the mean and median figures provided by Zolko. (Id. ¶ 209.)

Armed with LaNoue's chart, Plaintiff and other WFG members met with AAO Director Bonnie Ortiz ("Ortiz") and Associate President for Human Resources Billie Willitts ("Willitts") in April of 2001 to discuss their suspicions that the AAO study was inaccurate. (Id. ¶ 211.) Ortiz and Willitts explained their understanding that the salaries analyzed in the AAO study were limited to base salaries, with no research incentives or other supplements included. (Id. ¶ 212.) Plaintiff then showed LaNoue's chart to Ortiz and Willitts, suggesting that either the results of the AAO study or the data used therein were inaccurate when viewed in light of the salary information provided to the faculty by Zolko. (Id. ¶ 213.) Ortiz investigated the inconsistency and, in May of 2001, informed Plaintiff that the salaries analyzed in the AAO study were not limited to base salaries as she had believed, but instead included research incentive payments. (Id. ¶ 215.) Ortiz told Plaintiff on May 9, 2001, that the University was collecting data that would permit it to complete the salary analysis again, this time using only base salary figures. (Id. ¶ 216.) Though this follow-up study to the AAO study was begun by the Office of Human Resources ("OHR"), and the preliminary results showed the existence of gender bias in salaries, Dean Kirch and Grigsby chose to hire an external consultant to conduct a more thorough study rather than to complete the OHR study. (Id. ¶¶ 230-32; Doc. No. 91 ¶ 2.) Dean Kirch and Grigsby did not disclose the preliminary findings of the OHR study to Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 91 ¶ 2.)

Haignere Report

On July 11, 2001, Plaintiff and other WFG members wrote a letter to Dean Kirch requesting that an outside consultant conduct a salary study "with special attention to gender bias." (Doc. No. 43 ¶¶ 218, 222.) The letter outlined the reasons WFG members felt that an external consultant was necessary, including their belief that "the problem of gender inequity has not been addressed satisfactorily" despite over ten years of Faculty Senate studies indicating a gender bias in salary. (Id. ¶¶ 222-23.) The letter also expressed that Plaintiff, and other WFG members, "have serious concerns regarding salary equity at the Penn State College of Medicine and Hershey Medical Center." (Id. ¶ 224.) Dean Kirch informed WFG members on August 22, 2001, that the suggestion to hire an external consultant was being considered. (Id. ¶ 226.) In November of 2001, Plaintiff was informed that the University had decided to hire an independent consultant to conduct a new salary study. (Id. ¶ 234.)

In January of 2002, COM retained Haignere, Inc. ("Haignere") to conduct an analysis of faculty salaries to determine whether salary disparities existed by gender or race. (Id. ¶ 235.) The Haignere study considered salaries in effect during the 2001-2002 academic year only. (Id. ¶¶ 244-45.) On October 14, 2003, Dr. Haignere presented the preliminary findings to WFG, Dean Kirch, and Grigsby. (Id. ¶ 252.) She found that a class-based salary disparity with respect to gender existed at COM. (Id. ¶ 255.) In response to Haignere's preliminary findings, Dean Kirch stated that he accepted the truth of the findings, and that he intended to take corrective measures in the form of class-based salary adjustments. (Id. ¶¶ 257-58.)

On November 20, 2003, Plaintiff and other WFG members met with Dean Kirch and Grigsby to discuss the administration's plans to make salary adjustments. (Id. ΒΆΒΆ 262-64.) During this meeting, Dean Kirch stated that an across-the-board group adjustment would be made, but that "there is no ...

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