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White Professor Awarded $388,212 in Reverse-Discrimination Case

June 3, 1993

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A white professor was awarded nearly $400,000 in a reverse-discrimination lawsuit claiming a university hired an equally qualified black man for more money and at a higher rank.

Cleora S. Roberts hugged her attorney and wept when an all-white federal jury Wednesday awarded her $388,212 in lost wages and compensation for emotional suffering. She also prevailed on her claim that the University of South Florida retaliated against her last year by not granting tenure.

″I think it sends the message about the principle of equal pay for equal work,″ Ms. Roberts said after the verdict. ″I’ve been fighting this five years.″

The lawsuit said Ms. Roberts and a black instructor in the school’s social work department, Aaron A. Smith, originally applied for the same level posts in 1988.

Smith eventually was hired at a higher level of associate professor and paid $10,500 a year more than Roberts’ salary of $29,500.

Ms. Roberts’ attorney, Charleen Ramus, said the verdict should not stifle university efforts to hire minority instructors, but rather put the university on notice that people should not be paid extra just because of their race.

Provost Gerry Meisels said the university likely will appeal. If the verdict is upheld, the case could have national implications for minority recruitment, he said.

Assistant Attorney General Elsa Whitehurst, who helped represent the school during the seven-day trial, said the judge will decide later whether it must give Roberts a raise and promote her to associate professor.

University attorneys argued Ms. Roberts lacked Smith’s qualifications and never applied for an associate professorship when the job was re-advertised. They contended that she was simply frustrated with her salary just as many of her fellow instructors are, and has not been discriminated against.

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