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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Another FAMU law professor suing over alleged discrimination, pay inequalities

A former Florida A&M law professor is suing the university, saying she was retaliated against and forced to resign for reporting discrimination and salary inequalities at the Orlando-based law school.

Barbara Bernier filed suit in state court in Tallahassee last year, but the university had the case transferred to federal court earlier this year, according to court dockets.

Fresh Squeezed reported last week that another FAMU law professor, Jennifer Smith, is suing in state court on similar grounds. Smith still works at the school.

Bernier, who now teaches at Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina, claimed she had to quit FAMU last year after 10 years of teaching there because she was “repeatedly harassed and degraded.”

She had complained that male deans and professors at the law school “were paid significantly more” than their female counterparts, her suit said.

Bernier, one of a handful of Haitian-American law professors in the U.S., said she then endured “repeated derogatory comments” from a previous law school dean.

When she reported the treatment to university higher-ups, they did nothing, her suit said.

An outside lawyer for the university responded to Bernier’s complaint and denied the allegations, according to court filings.

Attorney Maria Santoro asserted that Bernier’s salary wasn’t influenced by any discriminatory reason. She also highlighted the university’s “strong” policy against harassment and discrimination.

A trial in the case currently is set before U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle next March.

Bernier referred questions to her attorney, Marie Mattox of Tallahassee. Mattox was out of the office Monday, an assistant said.

Smith is represented by Rick Johnson, another Tallahassee attorney. An initial hearing in that case, filed July 31, hasn’t been set.