Court Case: Miller et al. v. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Case Adopted 06/01


Case History

Lucinda Miller, a former professor of pharmacy practice, sued Texas Tech for sex discrimination in the denial of tenure and retaliation for complaining about the discrimination in violation of Title VII and Texas state laws, as well as pay inequity in violation of the Equal Pay Act.

In 1997, the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy hired Miller as a professor and co-plaintiff Elaine King-Miller (no relation) as associate dean for outcome assessment. The university assured them that they would be considered for tenure immediately. During the hiring process Miller was told that that the institution was prohibited from paying her more than a specified base salary and $5,000 as an administrative stipend, although Miller later discovered that other professors were paid more. The university allegedly made similar comments to King-Miller, who also discovered that other associate deans were paid more.

During her first two academic years Miller carried a full teaching load, published several scholarly articles, was the founding editor of a new scholarly journal, and established a clinical program for the School of Pharmacy. She also served on eight committees and chaired five of them. Similarly, King-Miller experienced success as associate dean. Although her job description did not require her to teach any classes, she taught two during her first year. She also oversaw exams, restructured the outcome assessment program, organized faculty seminars, and served on various committees.

In 1998 Miller and King-Miller submitted tenure applications. Each had authored numerous publications and received prestigious recognition. At that time, only one other professor, a male applicant, was eligible for tenure. Despite favorable recommendations and praise from outside reviewers, Miller and King-Miller were both denied tenure, while the male applicant was awarded tenure.

Miller and King-Miller allege that procedural irregularities occurred throughout the tenure process. For instance, items were removed from Miller’s application and King-Miller was given inconsistent answers about what information was needed in the application. In addition, the chair of the tenure committee allegedly informed Faculty Affairs Committee members that the male applicant’s tenure application would receive a ‘smooth highway’ but Miller’s and King-Miller’s tenure applications would not. After tenure was denied, Miller and King-Miller learned that other female faculty members were not receiving the same salary and administrative stipends as their male counterparts, and Miller and King-Miller reported this to the administration.

After complaining about gender discrimination, Miller and King-Miller allege that they were subjected to a hostile environment. They were given negative evaluations and treated differently regarding their professional travel budget and reimbursement. The situation was so unbearable for Miller that she resigned in March 1999. In 1999 King-Miller unsuccessfully applied for tenure, and two male associate professors with less academic experience and qualifications were granted tenure. She was demoted from associate dean to professor of pharmaceutical sciences, an appointment that terminated in 2001.

Miller and King-Miller filed a joint lawsuit in U.S. District Court in 2000. In spring 2003 the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the university did not knowingly waive its right to sovereign immunity when it accepted certain federal funds and therefore was immune to King-Miller’s disability discrimination claim. Later that year the 5th Circuit accepted Miller and King-Miller’s petition to hear the case en banc on this issue. LAF joined an amicus curiae brief written by the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities in support of the plaintiffs.

On Aug. 15, 2005, the 5th Circuit issued its decision regarding King-Miller’s disability discrimination claim. The 5th Circuit held that Texas Tech is not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from King-Miller’s disability claim and remanded the case to the district court. This decision cleared the way for Miller’s sex discrimination suit, which had been held in abeyance, to proceed.

The university decided not to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit decision.

Key Case Issues

Sex discrimination in the denial of tenure and retaliation for complaining about the discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Texas state laws, and pay inequity in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.