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Spencer v. Virginia State University

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

November 30, 2016

ZOE SPENCER, Plaintiff,
v.
VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS)

          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Zoe Spencer ("Plaintiff') brings suit against her employer, Virginia State University ("VSU"), along with various members of the University's administration and Board of Visitors (collectively "Defendants"), alleging wage discrimination and retaliation under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 ("EPA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 28.) Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiffs wage discrimination and retaliation claims, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to plead a plausible claim under either the EPA or Title VII.

         Each side has filed memoranda supporting their respective positions. The Court will dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the Court, and oral argument would not aid in the decisional process. E.D. Va. Loc. Civ. R. 7(J).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion, and this case will be dismissed without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations to be true and views all facts in the light most favorable to her. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). At this stage, the Court's analysis is both informed and constrained by the four corners of Plaintiff s Second Amended Complaint ("S.A.C."). Viewed through this lens, the facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff has been employed with VSU since August 2008. (S.A.C. ¶ 42, ECF No. 19.) VSU initially hired Plaintiff as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice. (Id.) In 2010, Defendants promoted Plaintiff to Associate Professor, a position she currently holds. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs career at VSU has been noteworthy, and she has received numerous awards and certificates for her service to the VSU community and the community at large. (Id. ¶ 44.) As an Associate Professor, Plaintiff is responsible for teaching four classes each semester. (Id. ¶ 46.) Plaintiffs classes are consistently filled to capacity, and her evaluations from both students and faculty exceed the 95th percentile. (Id.) From 2011 until 2013, Plaintiffs salary was $68, 500.00 per academic year. (Id. ¶ 47.) Plaintiff currently receives $70, 040.00 per academic year. (Id.)

         Plaintiff avers that VSU is a teaching university, not a research institution. (Id. ¶ 48.) Plaintiff also contends that the University's Employee Work Profiles ("EWPs") do not distinguish between the responsibilities and performance obligations of faculty members according to their disciplines. (Id.)

         Plaintiff contends that according to the VSU Faculty Handbook, VSU employees are divided into Classified Personnel and General Faculty. (Id. ¶ 36.) Faculty salaries are based on rank and experience, rather than department. (Id.) Per the Handbook, "there is no difference or distinction in faculty responsibilities or job descriptions between departments or disciplines." (Id. ¶ 38.)

         Plaintiffs S.A.C. draws comparisons between several VSU faculty members with different compensation rates than Plaintiff. Specifically, Plaintiff identifies six male professors at VSU who earn significantly higher salaries than she does despite equal or less experience and equal or fewer qualifications:

1. Cortez Dial is or was an Associate Professor in the Mass. Communications Department despite the fact that when he was hired he did not possess a terminal degree in the field and had no experience teaching the subject. (Id. ¶ 49a.) In Spring 2015, Professor Dial taught only two courses, each of which had less than 20% enrollment. (Id.) In 2014, Professor Dial earned $35, 406.00 more than Plaintiff. (Id.)
2. Michael Shackleford was an Associate Professor in the Doctoral Studies Department, despite the fact that when he was hired he had no experience teaching the subject or conducting research. (Id. ¶ 49b.) In Spring 2015, Professor Shackleford taught two courses with enrollment maximums of 3 and 8 students respectively. (Id.) In 2014, Professor Shackleford earned $49, 698.00 more than Plaintiff. (Id.)
3. Andrew Feldstein is an Associate Professor in the Management and Marketing Department. (Id. ¶ 49c.) In Spring 2015, he was signed up to teach only one class. (Id.) In 2014, Professor Feldstein earned $42, 827.00 more than Plaintiff. (Id.)
4. Byron Greenberg was an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department. (Id. ¶ 49d.) In 2014, Professor Greenberg earned $6, 421.00 more than Plaintiff. (Id.)
5. David Coss is an Assistant Professor in the Accounting and Finance Department. (Id. ¶ 50a.) Plaintiff avers that, prior to his employment at VSU, Professor Coss did not have any significant contributions or achievements in his field outside of academia. (Id.) In Spring 2015, Professor Coss was signed up to teach two courses, each with less than 40% enrollment. (Id.) In 2014, Professor Coss earned $38, 110.00 more than Plaintiff. (Id.)
6. Karl Menk was an Associate Professor at VSU. (Id. ¶ 50b.) In 2012, Professor Menk earned $36, 500.00 more than Plaintiff. (Id.)

         In 2012, Plaintiff made attempts to address gender equity at VSU. (Id. ¶ 51.) Plaintiff served as the chair of a six-member organization entitled "The Gender Equity Task Force, " a group designed to investigate wage disparity at VSU. (Id.) The Task Force presented its findings to the Administrative Cabinet at VSU and warned the Administration about the University's potential liability under the EPA and ...


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