Longtime Pittsburgh tax law professor William Brown, 73, filed suit on Aug. 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, claiming that the law school passed him over for a tenured position in favor of someone 40 years younger.
“I think it’s a strong case,” said Brown’s attorney, Samuel Cordes. “They’re not going to be able to objectively offer a reason that he was let go, other than that he was getting old. There’s this feeling that they just didn’t want an older person on their tenure track.”
A spokeswoman for the university declined to comment.
Brown has a long history with the law school. He joined the faculty in 1968 and received tenure after six months. In 2000, he left to become director of Duquesne University’s graduate tax program.
According to the complaint, Pittsburgh law Dean Mary Crossley asked Brown in 2006 to leave Duquesne and accept a position teaching tax law, to fill in for several professors who were taking leaves of absence. Brown “had reason to believe” that a tenure-track position would become available at the end of the 2006-’07 academic year, the complaint said.
Brown was hired to teach part-time for the next two years, and repeatedly voiced his desire to be considered for a full-time position. In 2009, the law school hired a new tenure-track tax professor who was in her early 30s, according to the complaint. Brown’s teaching contract was not renewed for the 2008-’09 academic year. He has been given the law school’s Excellence In Teaching award the previous year.
“During faculty meetings, and in subsequent discussions, [the law school] considered the fact that the median age of the law school faculty had increased, and determined that this was a negative factor that needed to be addressed,” the complaint said.
Brown is seeking reinstatement to the faculty and unspecified compensation.
Law schools at Iowa and Baltimore have been sued in recent years for age discrimination by Donald Dobkin, 56, a pre-law professor at Central Michigan University who applied but was not interviewed for teaching jobs at both schools. An Iowa judge denied the University of Iowa’s request for summary judgment earlier this month.
Former North Dakota Attorney General Nicholas Spaeth, 61, sued Michigan State in federal court for age discrimination on July 28 after he failed to secure an interview for a teaching job.
Karen Sloan can be contacted at email@example.com.