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Jury backs Stevens-Henager in bias suit

SHARE Jury backs Stevens-Henager in bias suit

A federal court jury has found in favor of Stevens-Henager College in a lawsuit filed by the government on behalf of four women who alleged that the college subjected them to gender-based discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action lawsuit in 2005 against Stevens-Henager College on behalf of the women, asserting in eight separate claims that Stevens-Henager discriminated against the women, who worked as recruiters for the institution in Ogden, by paying them less than their male counterparts.

One woman was later fired, the EEOC alleged. Among the four women named in the suit, the EEOC said the wage differential was between 6 percent and 33 percent.

On March 29, a U.S. District Court jury found in favor of Stevens-Henager College on all counts.

In a statement released by Stevens-Henager, the college said the jury found on two counts that the employee in question was fired for violating company policies, not as a result of discrimination. In another claim, in which a female employee claimed she was terminated so that Stevens-Henager could offer her position to a man, the jury found that her termination was based on poor performance, not gender. The jury also rejected claims of back pay and monetary damages.

"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," Vicky L. Dewsnup, president of Stevens-Henager's Ogden campus, said in a prepared statement. "We are gratified the outcome of the lawsuit served to highlight the validity of our merit-based policies."

Sandy Padegimas, lead attorney for the EEOC on the case, said Tuesday she still believes that the lawsuit was proper and that the women suffered discrimination.

"The commission, as well as the four women, were saddened by the verdict," Padegimas said. "But this is our system, which we all believe in. We are, of course, reviewing the case to see if there are any appealable issues."

The government has 60 days to file an appeal.

"The women were fairly remarkable," Padegimas said. "It's never easy to be part of a lawsuit. ... I think these women should be commended for standing up and saying that there was something wrong."

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com