Court Case: Crystal v. Regents of the University of Michigan

Case History

Jill Crystal, former assistant professor in the department of political science at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, sued the university’s regents for pregnancy discrimination, pay inequity and other claims in violation of Michigan state laws.

Crystal joined the university’s political science department in 1986 as a tenure-track assistant professor. After announcing her pregnancy in 1990, she requested information on disability leave for pregnancy from the university. University officials reported that Crystal was only entitled to take unpaid leave or use junior research leave. Crystal further alleged that the officials at the school also told her that she would be required to take unpaid leave for that entire fall semester of that year because her baby was due in the middle of the fall term.

Crystal believed that the university’s policy on pregnancy leave was discriminatory under both state and federal laws, and pursued the matter with the administration. After months of negotiations, the university granted Crystal leave with pay from her teaching duties in the fall semester, as well as a one year extension for her tenure review. However, the university required her to continue to perform her service, administrative, and graduate advising duties for the fall semester. In addition, Crystal asserted that the professor who later became chairwoman of the political science department was opposed to the one year extension that Crystal received, and after becoming chairwoman, required her to teach an extra course in the semester following her pregnancy leave for no additional compensation.

Crystal submitted her tenure application for review in 1992. She alleged that because she challenged the university’s pregnancy leave policy, the university retaliated against her, culminating in her tenure denial. She claimed that the department chairwoman failed to follow university procedures during Crystal’s tenure review process. Specifically, she stated that the chairwoman purposely excluded documents and information favorable to Crystal from consideration by the reviewing committees and asserted undue and negative influence on the decision makers. Following her tenure denial, Crystal received a terminal contract from the university that ended in 1994.

Crystal filed a complaint in Michigan state court in 1993. A court-ordered mediation panel found in her favor in 1996 and awarded her $100,000.

Key Case Issues

Pregnancy discrimination, retaliation, and sex discrimination in the denial of tenure in violation of Michigan state laws.