University of Phoenix to Pay $1,875,000 for Religious Bias

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that Federal District Court Judge Mary H. Murguia has entered a consent decree for nearly $2 million and significant remedial relief to resolve a class religious discrimination lawsuit against the University of Phoenix Inc., and its parent corporation, Apollo Group Inc.

Apollo Group and the University of Phoenix are one of the largest employers in the Phoenix metropolitan area. In its lawsuit, filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (EEOC v. University of Phoenix Inc., and Apollo Group Inc., CV 06-2303-PHX-ROS), EEOC charged that the University of Phoenix engaged in a widespread practice of discriminating against non-Mormon employees who worked as enrollment counselors in the University's Online Division. Enrollment counselors at the University of Phoenix are responsible for recruiting students and are largely evaluated based on the number of students they recruit. At present, the University of Phoenix has more than 2,000 employees working in online enrollment.

Robert Lein, who filed a charge of discrimination with EEOC that resulted in the lawsuit, said, "I am very pleased with the outcome of this case and I thank the EEOC staff for their work. I am happy to hear that the University of Phoenix is making significant changes to its environment to prevent what happened to me and many of my colleagues from happening again in the future."

Testimony of witnesses in the case revealed that managers in the Online Enrollment Department at the University of Phoenix discriminated against non-Mormon employees, and favored Mormon employees, in several ways, including: (1) providing the Mormon employees better leads on potential students; (2) disciplining non-Mormon employees for conduct for which Mormon employees were not disciplined; (3) promoting lesser-qualified or unqualified Mormon enrollment counselors to management positions while repeatedly denying such promotions to non-Mormon enrollment counselors; and (4) denying tuition waivers to non-Mormon employees for failing to meet registration goals, while granting the waivers to Mormon employees.

"We are pleased that University of Phoenix is going to stop condoning such favoritism toward Mormon employees and the resultant discrimination against non-Mormon employees," said Mary Jo O'Neill, EEOC Phoenix regional attorney. "It is the EEOC's belief that, for many years, the University of Phoenix condoned an environment in which Mormon managers felt free to engage in favoritism toward their Mormon employees, and did so by providing the Mormon employees things such as strong leads on potential students. Given that evaluations are based largely on recruitment numbers, this disproportionate assignment of leads affected a whole host of matters for employees, including compensation, access to tuition waivers, and ability to be promoted."

The consent decree entered into by EEOC, the University of Phoenix, and Apollo Group provides monetary relief of $1,875,000 for 52 individuals. The amount of relief provided to any individual is based on the nature of the discrimination he or she experienced. The consent decree also contains several strong provisions designed to stop further religious discrimination and prevent it from recurring, including:

  • Dissemination of a Zero Tolerance Policy to all employees in the University of Phoenix Online Enrollment Department, stating that the company has zero tolerance for religious discrimination and that any violation of the policy will result in termination;
  • Training for managers and non-managers on the issue of religious discrimination;
  • Creating a system to include in managers' evaluations an assessment of their compliance with equal employment opportunity laws; and
  • Hiring a Diversity Officer, and the staff necessary, at the University of Phoenix to monitor compliance with the terms of the consent decree.

EEOC's Phoenix District Director Chester Bailey said, "We hope this settlement sends a message to all employers to be vigilant in ensuring a fair and equitable work environment for all employees regardless of their religion. The relief the EEOC obtained will require this large employer to change discriminatory business practices that already have affected potentially hundreds of non-Mormon employees at the University of Phoenix Online."

Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Get the Ultimate Guide to OSHA Recordkeeping

    OSHA’s Form 300A posting deadline is February 1! Are you prepared? To help answer your key recordkeeping questions, IndustrySafe put together this guide with critical compliance information.

  • Steps to Conduct a JSA

    We've put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you perform a job safety analysis (JSA), which includes a pre-built, JSA checklist and template, steps of a JSA, list of potential job hazards, and an overview of hazard control hierarchy.

  • Levels of a Risk Matrix

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • Industry Safe
TenCate FR Technology

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - October 2020

    October 2020

    Featuring:

    • FACILITY SECURITY
      EHS Compliance: Make it Personal
    • FOOT PROTECTION
      Choosing the Right Safety Shoe for Your Industry
    • HAND PROTECTION
      A Requirements Checklists for Work Safety Gloves
    • COVID-19 MANAGEMENT
      Contemporary Issues in HSE Management
    View This Issue