More than a year after former School of Management professor Constance Bagley filed suit against the University alleging gender and age discrimination, her case is steadily inching towards trial.
On Dec. 12, Senior United States District Judge Charles Haight denied Bagley’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have required the SOM to employ Bagley after her term on the Yale faculty expired at the end of 2014. The denial came after a Nov. 14 motion, filed by Bagley, claiming that the expiration of her contract would cause irreparable harm to her reputation and family, even after her contract was extended by Yale for 18 months. The University responded to that motion on Dec. 3, arguing that Bagley could not justifiably demonstrate irreparable harm and that she was not likely to succeed on the merits of her case. The University maintains no assurance that Bagley’s contract would be renewed was ever made, and that the nonrenewal was not a violation of her employment contract.
The denied motion also comes four months after Judge Haight dismissed four of the 18 counts against the University in Bagley’s original complaint. In March 2014, however, Haight denied a motion filed by Yale to dismiss all of the counts.
Bagley — who is currently a senior research scholar at Yale Law School — filed her case against the University claiming her professorship was not renewed in May 2012 as the result of age discrimination and gender bias. The SOM Dean Edward Synder, the SOM Deputy Dean Andrew Metrick and Bagley’s colleague, professor Douglas Rae, with whom Bagley co-taught a course, were also named as defendants.
University spokesman Tom Conroy maintained that there is not a climate of discrimination at the SOM, which was described as a “chilly environment for women” by the Harte Committee, appointed by then-provost Peter Salovey to review Bagley’s grievance.
“[The] SOM does not discriminate on the basis of gender and age and did not discriminate against Bagley,” Conroy said.
He added that the University still believes the lawsuit to be without merit.
Laura Studen, one of Bagley’s lawyers, said that previous setbacks in court, such as Bagley’s denied preliminary injunction, do not affect the integrity of Bagley’s complaint.
In response to Yale’s claim that Bagley’s termination came in part as a result of poor student reviews, Studen said that relative to other professors, Bagley’s student evaluations were actually strong.
“There is no professor that has not suffered criticism from student evaluations at [the] SOM,” Studen said. “She also had glowing, amazing responses and letters that she received over the course of years about what an amazing job she was doing, so there is ample evidence in the record [that] there was nothing unusual in her teaching except that she was excellent and probably exceeded others.”
Further, Studen said the positive testimony of former SOM Dean Joel Podolny, who hired Bagley, is encouraging for the plaintiff’s case.
Liz Smith Mao, a friend of Bagley’s who is also a lawyer and has served as an advisor throughout the legal proceedings, said Yale has disproportionally weighted Bagley’s few negative student evaluations in its defense.
“That was one class of reviews,” she said. “I have been in [Bagley’s] class with Professor Rae when it is filled with students and the admissions department who sent students to her class because she was one of the best teachers at [the] SOM.”.
Snyder said the ongoing case has not affected the way issues of gender and age discrimination are addressed at the SOM. Rae and Metrick declined to comment.
“These issues have been important all along. I’ve been here three and a half years and the issues of diversity broadly defined have been at the forefront of decision-making and various fronts in terms of student recruitment, faculty hiring, staff hiring and how we conduct ourselves within the school on a day to day basis,” he said. “But that hasn’t been driven by the case.”
Studen said that given the current state of evidence, she expects the jury trial to be held at the end of 2015.
Bagley said ultimately she is hopeful that a trial will yield a result in her favor.
“I certainly expect the judge to require Yale to honor its obligations in a prompt and appropriate manner,” she said.
Over the next several months, Studen said Bagley’s legal team will be engaged in paper discovery, consisting of email correspondences and other documents relative to Bagley’s time at the SOM. Studen said in the coming months, Yale administrators, including Salovey and chief SOM administrators, will also give depositions in relation to the case.
Nina Pirrotti, a partner at the Connecticut-based law firm Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Richardson, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, said it can be difficult for a plaintiff to find direct evidence of discrimination, but circumstantial evidence, such as looking at whom else a firm has recently terminated or hired, can be useful.
“There are ways in which we can prove discrimination without the words actually being uttered,” she said.