April 6, 2007

Jury Clears Ogden’s Stevens-Henager in Discrimination Case

By Tim Gurrister, Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah

Apr. 4--SALT LAKE CITY -- The Ogden campus of the Stevens-Henager College has been exonerated in federal court of sexual discrimination charges.

"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission greatly overreached in its effort to establish that Utah discriminates against female employees," said Robert Mansfield, attorney for Stevens-Henager College.

The complaint filed against the Ogden school was one of three filed on the same day by the commission in October 2005, Mansfield said, after several years without filing any. "They wanted to make an impression on Utah employers," he said.

The regional office of the EEOC in Phoenix filed the suit on behalf of four former Stevens-Henager admissions consultants, all female. Two claimed they were wrongfully terminated for gender issues, while two others complained that men were paid more for the same work.

A jury of six men and six women in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City last week found in favor of Stevens-Henager's Ogden campus on every count in the lawsuit.

The jury found pay differences cited in the suit were based on experience and qualifications, not gender, according to court records. The jury also found the two firings alleged in the suit as based on gender instead resulted from poor performance and violation of company policies.

Of the two women who complained about pay inequities in the suit, one quit, while the other was fired because she was taking sick pay from the school while starting a new job, Mansfield said. That termination was not part of the suit.

Vicky Dewsnup, president of Stevens-Henager's Ogden campus, said in a news release, "The jury's findings support the ongoing commitment of our college to hire and retain our employees based solely on merit, and without regard to any discriminatory basis. We are gratified the outcome of the lawsuit served to highlight the validity of our merit-based policies."

Stevens-Henager was founded in 1891 in Ogden. It now has campuses in Salt Lake City, Provo, Logan and Boise.

The suit had sought more than $300,000 in back pay for the four women in total, plus unspecified punitive damages.

"Obviously my clients are very elated," Mansfield said. "They certainly did not think they had discriminated in any way. And they felt strong enough about it to defend themselves at trial."


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