Court Case: deMartin v. New Mexico Highlands University

Case adopted 03/06


Case History

Lyn deMartin, former Director of the Santa Fe Center of New Mexico Highlands University, sued the university for sex discrimination in pay, race discrimination and retaliation for complaining of sex discrimination in wrongful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Mexico Human Rights Act, sec 28-1-10.

deMartin began her employment at New Mexico Highlands University in January 1999 as the International Program Director/ International Student Recruiter. In August 1999 she was promoted to Director of the Santa Fe Center. During her tenure as director, deMartin expanded the University’s programs and significantly increased enrollment at the Santa Fe Center. The University has three centers, each with its own director. In July 2003, the University president informed the directors that they would be receiving raises in salary. Kim Carpenter (male), director of one of the other centers, informed deMartin in September 2003 that he had received a raise and suggested that she submit a form requesting a salary increase. She submitted the form and received a call from the office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs questioning her request. After deMartin submitted an additional letter explaining her request she was told by the Vice-President for Academic Affairs that the University President had “cut a side deal” with Carpenter. She was offered and accepted an increase of $5,000 per year retroactive to July 2003.

In February 2004, the management team, of which deMartin is a part, received a list of every employee that included salary information. It was then that she discovered that Carpenter was making $71,000 per year and the other center director, Lew Granados, was making $72,000 per year. deMartin, post-raise, was making $57, 788 per year. She complained to the head of Human Resources and was told that she had the smallest center and that there was a formula determining compensation. When she pressed to see the formula, no one could define it. According to deMartin, the head of Human resources told her “only factories pay by the piece,” implying that enrollment is not a factor in determining salary. The differences in center size is greater between Granados’ center and Carpenter’s center than between deMartin’s center and Carpenter’s center yet, the pay differential between Granados and Carpenter is only $1,000, while the pay difference between Carpenter and deMartin is $13,212. Numerous witnesses, including Carpenter, are willing to testify that the work undertaken by all three directors was identical.

In April 2004, deMartin filed a sex discrimination complaint with the EEOC and the New Mexico Department of Labor Human Rights Division (NM HRD). In June 2004 a new president was announced. On July 23, 2004, deMartin was terminated, one week prior to the scheduled mediation of her sex discrimination claim. The university refused to mediate after her termination.

In November 2004, deMartin filed a second claim with the EEOC and the NM HRD alleging retaliation for filing a sex discrimination claim and race discrimination (deMartin claims that the employees terminated were disproportionately white, while the employees hired to replace them were disproportionately Hispanic and Native American). The NM HRD, backed by the EEOC, found she had probable cause for her sex discrimination claim, but no probable cause for her race claim. On July 11, 2005, deMartin filed a complaint for sex discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Mexico Human Rights Act, as well as other claims.

deMartin’s case settled the day she learned she had received support from AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund. She had a mediation that day and upon telling the university that LAF was supporting her case, the U.S. District Court judge serving as mediator encouraged the university to take the issue more seriously. The university and deMartin came to an agreement and the university settled with her for a sizeable amount.

Key Case Issues

Wrongful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.