Court Case: Duffy/Jackson v. California Polytechnic State University

Case History

Susan Duffy and Lorraine Jackson, both faculty members at California Polytechnic State University, sued the university alleging pay inequity, disparate treatment, and sexual harassment. Duffy was hired as an associate professor in the Speech Communication Department in 1988 and in, 1992, was promoted to full professor and granted tenure. Despite enjoying professional success in her career at Cal Poly, even earning the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1993, Duffy experienced a hostile work environment since her first year at Cal Poly. Jackson was hired in 1992 and, like Duffy, was subjected to a campaign of intimidation and harassment by the same male faculty members in the department. In fact, upon her arrival at Cal Poly, she was warned to stay away from Duffy, the only tenured woman in the department; she was indirectly threatened that any association would be hazardous to her professional welfare. Duffy and Jackson filed formal complaints of sexual harassment with the school’s affirmative action officer and engaged counsel to attempt to resolve the problems through negotiation, to no avail. In May 1997 Duffy and Jackson filed a lawsuit in California state court.

In 1998, Duffy and Jackson suffered a setback when a district court judge dismissed their complaint, denying them permission to amend. They successfully appealed the dismissal to the California Court of Appeals. In January 2000 their case was reinstated and Cal Poly was ordered to pay costs to the plaintiffs. Through mediation, the case was settled in March 2001. The terms are confidential.

Key Case Issues

Sexual harassment, pay inequity, disparate treatment