University of Colorado Law School Professor Claims Discrimination, Retaliation in Lawsuit

A University of Colorado Law School professor is accusing the school of underpaying him based on his race and retaliating against him after he took paternity leave, according to a federal lawsuit filed June 23. 

Paul Campos, a tenured professor, sued the law school and its dean, Lolita Buckner Inniss, alleging pay discrimination in violation of federal law and accusing the school and Buckner Inniss of removing him from classes and the Faculty Evaluation Committee in retaliation for him complaining about the pay gap and taking paternity leave. According to the lawsuit, Campos is the only senior Latino faculty member at the school. 

The professor is asking a court to award him economic damages, including back pay, compensatory and consequential damages including for “emotional distress and humiliation,” punitive damages and attorneys fees. 

The lawsuit references a salary study that was run by CU to move toward compliance with the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. The study found salary gaps for university faculty members. According to Campos’ suit, the study found he was being paid $13,756 less than his colleagues but the professor argues the actual difference is likely higher since the survey didn’t account for pay bumps that go alongside endowed faculty positions. 

“Quite simply, there is no race-neutral explanation for the failure of CU Law to increase Professor Campos’ pay through an endowed professorship,” the lawsuit claims. 

Campos further alleges he received a low performance review in 2021 after he took two semesters off for parental leave and a sabbatical. He argues the score, which is based on a faculty member’s research, service and teaching, was lower in retaliation for him taking leave. The professor also claims that when he told Buckner Inniss in May 2022 he thought the score was low due to him taking leave and due to his race, the dean declined to revise the score. 

According to the lawsuit, following the conversation with the dean, Campos’ attorney sent a letter to complain about the score and underline his concerns that it was based on his race and parental leave. 

Campos claims after this letter and the complaint, he was taken off his position for CU’s Faculty Evaluation Committee. The lawsuit alleges initially he was told it was an accident and he was reseated, but was then taken off again by the dean after she learned about the letter and his “indication of possible litigation.” Campos says after this, he reported the incidents to the university’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance and was informed he would report to someone else while the investigation was pending. 

In the fall of 2022, Campos claims he was informed he would not teach property law for the spring 2023 semester and was informed by Buckner Inniss and the law school’s associate dean Alexia Brunet Marks the decision was due to “racially offensive and gender biased” remarks he’d made the year before. In his lawsuit, Campos disputes he ever made such comments and claims he’s never been sent proof from the school to support the accusations. 

The professor claims the OIEC’s report has not been finished and despite assurances he would be supervised by someone else, Buckner Inniss has been his direct supervisor. He also accuses the dean of “a pattern and practice of discriminating against and retaliating against other persons of Latino ethnicity at CU Law, including students, faculty, and at least one administrator.” 

The University of Colorado declined to comment on any specifics of the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the school provided Law Week with the following statement: “The University of Colorado Boulder recently became aware of the lawsuit Mr. Campos has filed against the university. As this lawsuit has just been served, the campus must review it and determine the appropriate course of action. As such, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Campos first began teaching at the University of Colorado Law School in 1990 and is the author of several books as well as the blog Inside the Law School Scam. The blog, which began in 2011, has criticized U.S. law schools and accused them of not preparing students for a career in law while saddling them with high tuition costs. Campos published a book for prospective law students exploring many of the same themes in 2012. 

Campos is represented by Daniel Williams of Boulder-based firm Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC.

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