A Federal District Court judge ordered University of Phoenix to pay nearly $1.9 million for practicing religious discrimination against non-Mormon employees who worked as enrollment counselors.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a class action suit that the online university and its parent Apollo Group provided the best leads to its Mormon recruiters, promoted less qualified Mormon workers over non-Mormon peers, and disciplined non-Mormons for conduct they condoned with Mormon employees.
Besides securing the nearly $2 million monetary compensation for 52 individuals, the consent decree requires that University of Phoenix immediately halt all discriminatory actions, train all managers and employees on the issue of religious discrimination and hire a diversity officer to monitor compliance.
One of the Valley's largest employers, the University of Phoenix has more than 2,000 working in the online enrollment division.
"We are pleased that University of Phoenix is going to stop condoning such favoritism toward Mormon employees and the resultant discrimination against non-Mormon employees," said Mary Jo O'Neill, Phoenix regional attorney for the federal employment watchdog organization. "It is the EEOC's belief that, for many years, the University of Phoenix condoned an environment in which Mormon managers felt free to engage in favoritism toward their Mormon employees, and did so by providing the Mormon employees things such as strong leads on potential students. Given that evaluations are based largely on recruitment numbers, this disproportionate assignment of leads affected a whole host of matters for employees, including compensation, access to tuition waivers, and ability to be promoted."
The University of Phoenix confirmed the consent decree including the payout, training initiatives and oversight but said it does not admit wrongdoing.
The company issued the following statement: "University of Phoenix is pleased to have resolved this matter. We are dedicated to providing a work environment in which our employees are treated fairly and with respect, and are recognized and rewarded based on their accomplishments. University of Phoenix is committed to providing equal opportunity in all aspects of employment and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind."