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UT professor suing school over alleged retaliation for reporting race-related pay disparities

A UT history professor says he was retaliated against by a supervisor after distributing a report that showed disparities of pay and promotions among racial groups.

AUSTIN, Texas — A professor with the University of Texas at Austin's Department of History is suing the school because he said he was retaliated against by a supervisor.

He said it happened after he distributed a report pointing out race-related pay and promotion disparities in the history department.

According to the lawsuit, in the spring of 2018, plaintiff Alberto Martinez notified his supervisor and coworkers that there was "discrimination" and "marginalization" of Hispanic employees in the Department of History. Consequently, the lawsuit stated that Martinez was appointed the chair of a new "Committee on Equity," which was tasked to review governance, salaries and promotions in the department. 

The lawsuit stated that months later, on Oct. 15, 2018, Martinez distributed a draft titled, "Report: Equity in Salaries and Raises," which reviewed data showing disparities of pay and lack of promotions to positions of leadership within the history department with compensation, especially for Hispanic and Black employees.

According to the lawsuit, four days later at a meeting of the department's executive committee, Martinez's supervisor told a member of that committee that the equity committee was going to be disbanded. However, the effort was deterred, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit stated that the supervisor subsequently created subcommittees of the equity committee and appointed the chairs of those subcommittees without consulting Martinez.

The lawsuit claimed that the supervisor assigned Martinez's duties to those new subcommittee chairs, disregarded Martinez's request that the subcommittees report to his committee. The supervisor also stopped meeting with Martinez, instead meeting with the new chairs. 

The lawsuit also stated that the supervisor accused Martinez of "denigrating" women coworkers, creating a "divisive" and "toxic" work environment, making anti-Semitic comments and discriminating on the basis of race and religion, as well as accusing him of a pattern of sexual misconduct. The lawsuit stated that all of those accusations were "entirely false."

According to the lawsuit, the supervisor reported Martinez to UT's Office of Inclusion and Equity (OIE), which then investigated Martinez. Eight months later, following "extensive" inquiries and interviews, the OIE found no evidence of wrongdoing, no violations of laws or university policies and that the supervisor's allegations were unsubstantiated, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit stated that based on the supervisor's intention to disband the equity committee, their reassignment of Martinez's duties to others and when their false allegations against Martinez were made, "it is clear that [their] actions constitute retaliation against him for engaging in a protected activity" and, through the allegations, the supervisor also "retailed by undermining and obstructing Martinez from completing his planned Reports on Salaries, Promotions, and Governance."

KVUE has reached out to the university for a statement regarding the lawsuit.

Martinez is seeking an injunction prohibiting UT from engaging in unlawful practices, "additional equitable relief as may be appropriate such as a raise to parity with White comparators, promotion, front pay, and court costs" and attorneys fees and costs, as well as additional other damages.

The university released the following statement Tuesday evening:

"The university continues its work to review and address concerns related to faculty compensation. Professor Martinez is a member of the university’s Equity Review Process Consultative Committee where he is in a position to participate in the university-wide initiative to review salary differences, understand bases for differences, and offer feedback. We look forward to continuing this important work. The university will address Martinez’s allegations about his individual situation in our response to his EEOC charge and our filings in the lawsuit."

WATCH: Racial Equality: Building a Better Austin for Latinos – Part 1

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