ST. BONAVENTURE — Facing claims she waited too long to file her discrimination lawsuit, a St. Bonaventure University Wiccan professor now says the discrimination is ongoing because she’s paid less than male, non-Wiccan colleagues.
Dr. Pauline Hoffmann’s attorneys have asked to amend her highly publicized religious discrimination lawsuit — which had alleged university officials denied her a promotion to provost and forced her to resign as dean because she’s Wiccan — to include new pay discrimination allegations.
The motion to amend, filed July 30 in U.S. District Court Buffalo, specifies Hoffmann was paid less than the university’s “male, non-Wiccan” deans while serving as Jandoli School of Communication dean from 2012 to 2018.
The proposed amendment also claims Hoffman’s salary was reduced by approximately $50,000 when she resigned as dean to return to teaching, but that Dr. Michael Fischer kept his full salary after stepping down as provost to return to teaching accounting in 2015.
“This means that Prof. Hoffman(n) receives less compensation every paycheck (than) a similarly situated male, non-Wiccan,” Hoffmann’s attorney, Richard Perry of the Law Office of Lindy Korn in Buffalo, wrote in the proposed amendment.
Perry did not immediately return a request for further comment.
The amendment is a response to St. Bonaventure’s attorneys arguing the lawsuit should be thrown out because Hoffmann did not file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of the alleged discrimination.
Plaintiffs must file an EEOC complaint prior to filing a federal discrimination lawsuit. In New York state, EEOC complaints must be filed within 300 days of the alleged discrimination.
Hoffmann filed her EEOC complaint Feb. 19 — more than 300 days after she was passed over for the provost position, submitted her dean resignation letter and officially stepped down as dean.
The Buffalo law firm representing St. Bonaventure, Bond, Schoeneck and King PLLC, wrote in their motion to dismiss July 12 that it’s “well-settled that a litigant’s failure to file an EEOC charge within the required 300 day period operates as a bar to” Title VII lawsuits like Hoffmann’s.
Title VII outlaws discrimination on the basis of religion and sex.
However, in the proposed amendment, Perry cites the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which resets lawsuit statute of limitations with every new paycheck that was affected by discriminatory behavior.
“In other words, every time Prof. Hoffmann receives a paycheck the statute of limitations clock starts running again for that paycheck,” Perry wrote.
Plus, Perry has asked to amend the original Title VII lawsuit to include an Equal Pay Act claim. Lawsuits regarding the Equal Pay Act, which abolishes pay discrimination on the basis of sex, have a two-year statute of limitations.
“The court should dismiss defendant’s motion in its entirety,” Perry wrote to U.S. District Judge William Skretny, who is presiding over the case.
Hoffmann filed her original complaint May 28, seeking repayment of lost wages and an unspecified amount in damages.
It alleges Fischer, then provost, required Hoffmann, then interim dean, to sign a statement vowing to uphold Catholic values in 2012. Additionally, Fisher is accused of telling Hoffmann, “You might not want to be so overt about being a witch if you want to move up.”
Sister Margaret Carney, St. Bonaventure president emeritus who retired in 2016, is accused of telling Hoffmann, “I took a big chance hiring you as a Wiccan.”
The university’s Board of Trustees told Dr. Joseph Zimmer, who was made provost in 2016 over Hoffmann, to “solve the Pauline problem,” according to the lawsuit. Hoffmann alleges the “Pauline problem” has to do with the fact she is Wiccan.
St. Bonaventure officials have declined to comment on the case. Tom Missel, the university’s chief communications officer, has said it’s not the university’s policy to comment on personnel and legal matters.
The lawsuit has made national news, with outlets like Yahoo News, The Daily Beast and Huffington Post writing stories.
Hoffmann, of Franklinville, is a 1991 St. Bonaventure graduate who joined the university faculty in 2006. She taught online classes this summer and has said she plans to return to campus to teach this fall semester, which begins Aug. 26.