Vassar Gender Discrimination


On January 30, 2024, Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint, following a second letter to the Court in which Vassar again requested permission to file a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs were disappointed but not surprised by Vassar’s second attempt to dismiss this case: Vassar’s decision to fight their female faculty’s effort to close the gender pay gap is unfortunately consistent with the College’s decades-long pattern of claiming to value gender equality while privately undercutting that mission.

This is now the second time Vassar has requested that Plaintiffs amend their complaint to provide additional information about the discrimination they faced. A copy of the second amended complaint that highlights the additional information Vassar explicitly requested is available here.

December 2023 Case Update

On December 19, 2023, the Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint (available here) at Vassar’s request.  The Plaintiffs also shared the following joint statement to their colleagues about the amended complaint.

To Our Valued Colleagues:

We write to address the filing of an amended complaint in the gender discrimination class action against Vassar College, for which we serve as class representatives.  Though that amended complaint identifies by name the men Vassar has unlawfully paid more than each of us, we want to make clear that it was Vassar’s choice—not ours—to make that information public.  In fact, we requested multiple times that Vassar rescind its demand that we publicize this information, which we consider both unnecessarily divisive and squarely at odds with Vassar’s public claim that it wishes to resolve this case.  Unfortunately, Vassar refused our calls for unity and continued instead to demand that we name names in an amended complaint.

Our sole aim in bringing this class action was, and remains, to achieve gender equity for Vassar’s female full faculty.  We regret that, as part of that effort, Vassar demanded that we identify some of you by name.  Please know that we remain steadfastly committed to working alongside each of you in our shared objective to serve the entire Vassar community.


Wendy Graham
Maria Höhn
Mia Mask
Cindy Schwarz
Debra Zeifman

November 2023 Case Update

On October 13, 2023, Vassar filed a letter requesting permission to dismiss Plaintiffs’ gender discrimination claims. That letter is available here. Plaintiffs are disappointed with Vassar’s continued insistence on fighting—rather than embracing—their female faculty’s attempts to close the gender pay gap, and responded vigorously to Vassar’s letter. Their response is available here. A hearing regarding Vassar’s request to dismiss the lawsuit was held in White Plains on November 27, 2023. The parties will fully brief Vassar’s motion to dismiss in early 2024.

August 2023 Case Update

On August 30, 2023, Lieff Cabraser and Equal Rights Advocates filed a federal class action gender discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of five female current and former Vassar College professors alleging systemic pay disparities and an ongoing pattern of pay discrimination, with 36 additional female full professors writing jointly to say that they share the class representatives’ grievances about Vassar’s pattern of pay discrimination. The case challenges pervasive and long-standing gender-based pay disparities between Vassar’s male and female full professors.

You can read a copy of the Class Action Complaint and the Joint Statement of 36 Women Full Professors at Vassar in Support of the Gender Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit Seeking Pay Equity here.

The professors allege that Vassar has known for years that it unlawfully pays men more than women, and has for years refused to adequately address the discrimination. Vassar is one of the Seven Sisters, a group of historically women’s colleges founded on the promise of gender equity. The lawsuit describes how women professors at Vassar have attempted for at least 15 years to work discreetly and collaboratively with the College to remedy the gender pay gap, but that the College has both ignored the problem and taken steps to decrease the level of pay transparency in recent years, in an apparent attempt to mask the disparity.

Lieff Cabraser partner Kelly Dermody, who represents the plaintiffs as co-lead counsel, noted, “Plaintiffs—and all Vassar female full professors—are leaders in their fields and highly regarded by both their contemporaries and their students. For too long, Vassar has refused to equitably value their contributions to the College. We hope this case will prompt Vassar to finally live up to the storied role in the movement for gender equality that it so publicly claims.”

In the words of the plaintiffs Wendy Graham (Professor of English), Maria Höhn (Professor Emerita of History), Mia Mask (Professor of Film), Cindy Schwarz (Professor of Physics), and Debra Zeifman (Professor of Psychological Science) themselves: “Through this action, we seek to achieve what we were prevented from accomplishing through private internal channels: gender equity for ourselves and other female full faculty, and the adoption of fair processes to ensure that future generations of faculty are paid, promoted, and evaluated fairly.”

Contact an Employment Lawyer at Lieff Cabraser Today

If you believe you are affected by the allegations in the Vassar gender discrimination complaint, or want more information about the case and the rights of those experiencing gender, race, or age discrimination in employment, you can contact a lawyer at Lieff Cabraser by calling us toll-free at 1 800-541-7358 or by using the confidential contact form below.

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