31 July 2019

Former general counsel in discrimination suit

Two general counsel for LSU Health Center in New Orleans sue over gender discrimination claims.

Two former general counsel for the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans have sued the LSU Board of Supervisors and three administrators over claims of gender discrimination.

“Blatant retaliation”

In a civil suit filed in the US District Court in New Orleans, plaintiffs Katherine Muslow and Meredith Cunningham state that for many years they faced inequitable pay policies that paid me tens of thousands of dollars a year more than women for the same type of work and experience. Ms Muslow worked as general counsel and reported directly to Larry Hollier, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center. Ms Cunningham was a staff lawyer and reported to Ms Muslow. Both lawyers represented LSU in court and administrative proceedings, and provided legal advice to faculty and administrators.

Market salary

Referring to a 2017 market salary study, conducted by LSU to assess its salary structure, Ms Muslow and Ms Cunningham asked their superiors for merit-based raises, the suit says, but were fired as a result in “purposeful and blatant retaliation.” Following the salary study, LSU's New Orleans campus established 30 pay grades, based on job descriptions and experience. According to the lawsuit, Cunningham wasn't given a salary assessment because she worked part-time, even though it says other part-time employees, mostly men, benefited from the review. The suit also says she later discovered, through a records request, that at least eight men with lower pay grades in the chancellor's office earned the same or substantially more than she did, and that men often got more supplemental pay in the form of car allowances and other benefits. The suit says that Muslow and Cunningham had not received poor reviews before being fired from their positions.

“Good ole boys' clubs”

The suit also names as defendants Thomas Skinner, the vice president of legal affairs and general counsel at LSU; Hollier; and John Harman, the vice chancellor of administration and finance and manager of human resources at LSU Health New Orleans. The lawsuit states, “Because discretion was and is the sole guidepost for setting salaries in the chancellor’s office, other objectionable and illegal employment practices have resulted, such as nepotism and 'good ole boys' clubs, to the detriment of women employees.” Ernie Ballard, a spokesman for LSU, said he wasn't aware of the case but that officials don't comment on pending litigation.