North Texas Daily

Trial date set for UNT professor suing university over pay discrimination

Trial date set for UNT professor suing university over pay discrimination

September 13
16:21 2017

The lawsuit filed against UNT by psychology professor Yolanda Flores Niemann is set for trial in late March 2018, according to open record documents obtained by the North Texas Daily.

The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2017 on the grounds of racial discrimination in pay. Flores Niemann, who is of Mexican descent, claimed UNT paid her less than other colleagues who were white. In June 2017, UNT submitted a partial motion to dismiss Flores Niemann’s section 1981 claims, which prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace, and 1983 claims.

The court granted this motion, meaning the lawsuit will now solely focus on Flores Niemann’s Title VII discrimination claim against UNT. Title VII is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of multiple characteristics, including race.

Serving as senior vice provost at UNT from 2012 to 2015, Flores Niemann stepped down from her administrative position to a tenured psychology professor position. When she stepped down, she was allegedly promised she could keep 75 percent of her prior salary, but received 66 percent of the salary when she returned to faculty. At the same time of her return to faculty, she claimed three other white colleagues also stepped down, but received 75 percent of their prior salary.

“I was treated differently,” Flores Niemann said. “It’s too egregious an injustice to just pretend it didn’t happen. There’s this thing hanging over everything—kind of like this cloud of injustice.”

The courts have also called for an attempt of mediation, according to the document files. The parties have until Feb. 1, 2018 to meet and reach an agreement, otherwise the trial date will stand.

Flores Niemann said she would like if the situation could be resolved through mediation before trial.

“If mediation were to resolve this, I think that would be great,” Flores Niemann said. “I wish no harm whatsoever to the university, but the university needs to do right by me. They can’t engage in unjust treatment of a woman of color.”

UNT will continue to vigorously defend itself, UNT spokesperson Julie Payne said in a prepared statement.

“It is unfortunate that Dr. Flores Niemann has chosen to file a lawsuit because the university community has treated her fairly and equitably,” Payne said in the statement. “Not only in her salary but in how the university assisted her in returning to a full-time faculty position. UNT honored Dr. Flores Niemann’s appointment letter, and in determining her salary when she returned to faculty, the university followed the mandates of state law and university policy.”

Payne also cited the UNT policy regarding administrators stepping down to professors in her statement. She pointed out the policy states “the salary of a person reassigned from an administrative position shall not exceed the salary of other persons with similar qualifications performing similar duties.”

“I just want [UNT] to do right by me,” Flores Niemann said. “I want them to do the right thing.”

Flores Niemann’s lawyer, Michael Hindman, was not available to reach for comment.

Featured Image” Professor Yolanda Niemann poses in her office. Niemann previously served as Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at UNT and is currently a psychology professor. Paige Bruneman

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Celeste Gracia

Celeste Gracia

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