Press Release 11-10-2008

UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX TO PAY $1,875,000 FOR RELIGIOUS BIAS AGAINST NON-MORMONS

EEOC Settles Suit on Behalf of Class of Enrollment Counselors in Online Division

 

PHOENIX – The U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today 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),  the 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 over 2,000 employees working  in online enrollment.

Robert Lein, who filed a charge of discrimination with the 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 EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo  O’Neill. “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 the 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;
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  • Training for managers and non-managers      on the issue of religious discrimination;
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  • Creating a system to include in      managers’ evaluations an assessment of their compliance with equal      employment opportunity laws; and
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  • 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.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.