Ex-KU orchestra director sues university under equal pay law

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The University of Kansas Lawrence campus is seen with a view to the northeast.

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A former University of Kansas music teacher and orchestra director has filed a federal lawsuit against her ex-employer, claiming the school failed to provide equal pay and treatment during her four-year tenure. mandate.

Carolyn Watson, hired to join the university’s music school in 2018, said in the lawsuit she was paid less than men in similar positions who had less experience or fewer responsibilities. His attempts to resolve the pay issue with the university administration resulted in no change, according to the lawsuit, and would have been met with hostility and mockery from a direct superior.

A university spokeswoman declined to comment, saying KU would not discuss ongoing litigation.

Watson was selected for the position by a university committee from among 100 applicants, according to the lawsuit. She claims that the Dean of the School of Music disadvantaged her selection by the committee and preferred a male candidate who was not invited to be interviewed.

Meanwhile, Watson grew concerned about the starting salary she was offered after learning that a male conductor at the School of Music was earning “significantly more” at the time, according to the lawsuit. She sought the advice of an economics professor who specializes in pay inequality at KU and was told the offer she had received was “inadequate”.

Based on this information, Watson says she attempted to negotiate a higher salary with the dean. This led to an “immediately hostile” reaction, according to the lawsuit, which ended in her feeling pressured into accepting the lower pay scale or not getting the job at all.

Watson said she was also criticized for asking the KU economics professor for advice on her offer. After going into labor, Watson says she heard the dean had publicly announced his desire to rescind his offer because he considered his actions unethical.

The lawsuit also alleges that Watson learned that the Dean read aloud emails she sent to him in front of other staff “in a mocking tone, essentially mocking his efforts to negotiate fair pay.”

Watson described the general workplace environment as “hostile” and said she was treated with “extreme animosity”. Despite this, according to the lawsuit, she brought positive recognition to the university’s orchestral program, including two national awards in 2020.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District of Kansas. He alleges the university violated the Equal Pay Act, calling for front and back wages and benefits as compensation.

Carolyn Watson, originally from Australia, left KU earlier this year. She was hired to join the University of Illinois-Champaign School of Music as an orchestra director in the fall.

This story was originally published August 11, 2022 7:23 p.m.

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Bill Lukitsch covers breaking news for The Star. Prior to joining The Star, he covered politics and local government for the Quad-City Times.

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