LUFKIN, Texas (KETK) – A federal jury trial began Monday morning in a lawsuit filed by a former Stephen F. Austin University professor who accused the school of paying her less than a male teacher that was “less qualified” and then firing her when she filed a formal complaint.
Dr. Ann Wilder, 48, was hired by SFA in 2014 as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work. She was given a five-year probationary contract. The lawsuit says that most professors are offered tenure after the completion of the five-year contract.
Wilder claims that she was offered a starting salary of $52,000 per year and that it rose to “approximately $54,400 by March of 2018.” In August 2016, the school hired Dr. Jose Carbajal to the same position as Wilder.
The lawsuit states that “at the time he was hired, Dr. Carbajal had less teaching experience and less clinical social work experience than Dr. Wilder.” The documents allege that despite this, Carbajal was paid $58,000 a year.
Wilder discovered the pay discrepancy in March 2018 and brought it to the attention of her bosses: Dr. Freddie Avant and Dr. Emmerentie Oliphant. Avant is the Director of the School of Social Work and Oliphant was Wilder’s department chair.
She claims that her verbal, informal complaints were “repeatedly ignored and unanswered.” Wilder then filed a formal, written complaint to the Human Resources department on June 19, 2018. The school told Wilder her claim was then “under investigation.”
Two months later, she was given a one-year terminal contract. This meant that she “was not going to receive tenure” and that she would be let go before the 2019 fall semester. Her proposed pay for that year was $55,695, which was still lower than Carbajal’s starting salary in 2016.
Wilder was given eight days to review and sign the contract. Two days before that deadline, the lawsuit states that she was informed by HR that she would be removed from the classroom due to her ongoing complaint.
The lawsuit states that Wilder did not sign the terminal contract and began looking for somewhere else to work. In September 2018, a review board at SFA dismissed the pay discrimination complaint.
In the complaint, Wilder claims that SFA had “no legitimate reason to justify paying Dr. Carbajal more…” She is looking for back pay from August 2016 to August 2018 “in the amount of the wage differential between her and Dr. Carbajal.”