Officer files discrimination lawsuit

Emma Tanner, News Editor

On December 21, 2021, a UNA police officer filed a lawsuit against the university alleging age and gender discrimination based on pay.

Shequanda Lee Jenkins, the officer who filed the lawsuit, has been a member of the UNA police force continuously since 2006. In the lawsuit, she claims that she received lower pay in comparison to her male colleagues. Jenkins further says she has more experience and education than other officers.

She cites many compromising incidents in her lawsuit. Jenkins says that in 2018, she was demoted with a pay reduction following a testimony in court. She was also prohibited from receiving overtime pay. Despite now being under a new chief, she continues to receive the reduced pay.

Furthermore, Jenkins applied for a new position twice in 2020 that would promote her to the rank of sergeant. The positions were instead given to a male officer with less experience and equal formal education.

“The successful candidate has several years less experience in law enforcement and many years less employment at UNA,” the lawsuit alleges.

Jenkins further claims that the discriminatory activities against her began after she turned forty (she is now 45), which led her to assume that it was based on not only gender but age. Aside from two other officers, she is the oldest on the force. She is exposed to the same dangers as her male competitors. She is also the only officer tasked with community outreach and acts as a liaison to agencies both on and off campus.

The lawsuit asserts that these are violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit asks that she be promoted to the rank of sergeant along with back pay for the time she was denied, compensation and punitive relief, among other things. It also names President Kenneth D. Kitts and the Board of Trustees as defendants.

“While the University does not comment on pending litigation, UNA policies are focused on creating an equal opportunity for all employees, both faculty and staff, and do not tolerate discrimination because of gender or age – and numerous other factors – in any personnel actions, programs, and facilities,” said UNA spokeswoman Michelle Eubanks. “We intend to vigorously defend against the allegations as this case moves forward.”

No court date has been filed as of January 14, 2022.