The Suits: Faculty Sues for Raise

Husband sues for sex.

The University of Washington is facing its third class-action lawsuit over a 2 percent–raise policy enacted in 2000. That year, the school declared that all faculty, full- or part-time, would be eligible for an annual 2 percent merit raise. Everyone would be evaluated, and anyone found undeserving would be informed in writing why they fell short. Everybody else would get the pay bump. The suits started in 2004 when Duane Storti, an adjunct faculty member, sued for administrative records regarding plans to generally withhold merit raises after he didn't get a pay increase despite getting a good evaluation. His claim was eventually turned into a class-action breach-of-contract lawsuit on behalf of all faculty members who didn't get the raise the previous school year. A King County Superior Court judge subsequently ruled that UW should have given out the raises, and the school settled for $17.45 million. In 2006, issues over the definition of a faculty member were raised when Susan Helf, a part-time lecturer in the business school, sued for the raise, pointing out that even though she wasn't full-time, her position was subject to the guidelines of the Faculty Salary Handbook, implying that she was, by definition, faculty. Again the suit was given class-action status, though this time for a smaller group of plaintiffs. The University was quick to settle it for a total of $790,000 plus attorney fees. Which brings us to this April: Rozanna Carosella and Natalie Pret were hired over a decade ago as part-time lecturers through the UW extension program, which offers professional certification courses in subjects like memoir writing and paralegal services. None of the extension lecturers have been part of the merit raise evaluation process since it went into effect in 2000. Carosella and Pret filed their suit as a class action on behalf of everyone who teaches through the program, claiming they too should be eligible. In the suit, Pret included the text of a letter from the institution, which informed her that her "appointment to the faculty of the University of Washington" had been approved, implying that she is a member of the faculty and therefore eligible. UW spokesperson Norm Arkans says the school plans to fight the suit. "We don't believe they're defined as part of the faculty," he says. In other suits: • On Nov. 11, 2007, plaintiff Michael Torres attempted to eat a can of SPAM containing a small round metal ball, like a bb. He bit into it and was "seriously injured, suffered and continues to suffer physical disability and pain, emotional trauma, past/current/future medical and health care expenses and other damages." He filed suit against Hormel, the makers of SPAM, in King County Superior Court on April 22. • Remember the McDonald's coffee case? Starbucks soon will. On July 3, 2007, Amy Stewart purchased a vanilla latte at a drive-thru in Kent. When she put it to her lips to drink, the top popped off, spilling the coffee down her front and burning her. She filed suit against the coffee giant in King County Superior Court on April 25. Her husband joined the case, suing for "loss of consortium"—legalese for sex and other spousal-specific activities.

 
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