Professor and UT-Austin file separate summary judgments over sex discrimination and equal pay violations lawsuit

Katy Nelson, News Reporter

On Monday, the University and law professor Linda Mullenix filed separate motions for summary judgment, which would eliminate the jury trial expected in February as Mullenix sues the University over allegations of sex discrimination and unequal pay.

In December 2019, Mullenix filed a lawsuit in federal court which claimed that UT pays Mullenix less than her male colleagues, particularly professor Robert Bone, despite equal work, seniority and performing under the same conditions. In their motion for summary judgment, the University argues that decisions on Mullenix’s pay are based upon her scholarship, teaching and service.

Mullenix’s lawyer Colin Walsh said the rules set in place for the law school to provide raises and determine salary don’t comply with the University’s rules and policies.

“The UT law standards state that faculty members are to make valuable contributions to the law school and University as well as to the larger legal and education community,” Mullenix’s motion said. “The budget committee inconsistently applies the service standards to highlight and praise favored faculty and to discredit as poor institutional citizens disfavored faculty.”

Mullenix filed an updated complaint on Sept. 24, including depositions from law faculty and Law School Dean Ward Farnsworth about the budget committee who recommends pay raises to the dean, who makes the final decision. The complaint said that Mullenix received the lowest raise of $1,500 out of all faculty members who received raises.

“That same year, Professor Bone, and many other professors with lower teaching evaluations, less teaching experience and fewer publications than Professor Mullenix received $10,000 raises,” the lawsuit said.

Mullenix also claimed she faced retaliation from Farnsworth, became assigned to “do-nothing” committees and was ostracized by other staff. The claims of retaliation in the original complaint were dismissed under Title VII in May 2020 and March 2021. The claims were also dismissed under the Equal Pay Act in June 2021 by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel. While her claims of sex discrimination and unequal pay remained, Walsh said he hopes Yeakel will reinstate the retaliation claims.

“Our second amended complaint contains extensively detailed allegations about the types of retaliation professor Mullenix has received,” Walsh said. “(It) includes multiple citations to the evidence, including depositions and documentary evidence showing how UT retaliates against professors who speak out against gender discrimination that they experience.”

Walsh said claims that Mullenix filed a separate lawsuit of unequal pay have been misreported. When Mullenix asserted an equal pay claim in 2010 and hired an attorney to send an official notice to see if they could solve the issue without litigation, he said, she entered into a settlement with the University.

The University structured the settlement as a forgivable loan, Walsh said, which required Mullenix to pay additional tax penalties and fees. Walsh said Mullenix asked for University reimbursement to pay the fees.

“When UT agreed to pay those penalties and fees and reimburse her for those penalties and fees, they also required her to sign a full general release of claims,” Walsh said. “Which is kind of interesting and I think highly suspicious because at that time Professor Bone was being paid substantially more than Professor Mullenix.”

J.B. Bird, Director of Media Relations & Newsroom, said while the University doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation, its pleadings and motions provide the law school’s responses to the allegations.