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OCU law professor alleges discrimination

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A law professor at Oklahoma City University has filed a federal lawsuit against the university and its law school dean, claiming sexual discrimination and violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Danne L. Johnson, as associated professor of law since 2003, contends male law professors at the school make as much as 52 percent more than their female counterparts at OCU.

Thirteen of the school’s 32 full-time law professors are women.

University officials declined to comment on the allegations levied by Johnson in the lawsuit filed earlier this month in federal court in Oklahoma City.

“The university is disappointed that the lawsuit was filed, but will deal with the issues in a manner that it deems appropriate,” OCU officials said in a written statement.

In the statement, OCU says it promotes diversity by providing equal opportunities without discrimination, but Johnson claims otherwise in a 24-page lawsuit, which details complaints made by her and several other female law professors.

It apparently began last year when Johnson complained to law school Dean Lawrence Hellman about the lack of racial or gender diversity on a Constitution Day panel in September 2007. All five professors on the panel were white men, according to the lawsuit.

Johnson and three other female professors requested a meeting with Hellman and OCU general counsel William J. Conger in October 2007.

Conger excused the lack of female or minority panelists by calling the Constitution Day event “meaningless,” the lawsuit states, while Hellman refused to distribute an e-mail encouraging the faculty to be more mindful of diversity when choosing speakers and panel members.

Hellman later dismissed the women’s complaint at a faculty meeting, according to the lawsuit.

Hellman also promised an investigation by an outside attorney into the allegations of sexual and racial discrimination lodged by the female professors, but the probe failed to yield a final report.

While the investigation was stalled, Johnson complained a male law professor was promoted despite publishing nothing that he had written primarily while he was at the law school. Two years earlier she was told she could not be promoted under similar circumstances.

She also complained she was treated with hostility once male faculty members were notified four professors had complained of “sexual and racial discrimination.” It was easy to identify her as one of complaining professors because she is one of two black faculty members, the lawsuit states.

Johnson is seeking unspecified damages and an injunction preventing the university from discriminating against her on the basis of gender.

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