Age, Gender Discrimination Allegations at Yale SOM


Legal filings supporting discrimination cases usually make for extremely good reading.  The anecdotes, emails and Human Resources documents often describe practices we know exist, but which usually aren’t discussed publicly – except when they are included in legal matters.

The case of Constance E. Bagley, a 61-year-old Yale University School of Management professor, takes good reading to a new level.

Professor Bagley, who holds a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with distinction and honors, from Stanford University, is the only woman ever appointed to the rank of Professor in the Practice at Yale School of Management.  She also is the woman who has brought a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Hartford against Yale and three individuals for age and gender discrimination, as well as retaliation.

Her story may seem extreme.  But it really is far too common.

First, some background.

Prior to moving to Yale, Professor Bagley was a partner in the law firm of Bingham McCutcheon in Massachusetts.  In 2007, at the invitation of then-Yale SOM Dean Joel Podolny, Professor Bagley secured an initial five-year appointment, scheduled to end on June 30, 2013, as a “Professor in the Practice.”  In her court filing, she asserts that the appointment included a promise of a multi-year renewal, as long as her performance met expectations. 

With that appointment, and understanding, she and her young son moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut, seeking – as she states it – “stability and a promotion to full professor and anticipating finalizing her professional career at Yale.”  And why not?  She says that one tenured SOM professor told her that, “to not get reappointed as a Professor in the Practice, you have to have really f-cked up and you haven’t. To the contrary, you have done well.”

Indeed, it appears she did very well.  She co-developed “State and Society,” a major core course for which she received excellent course reviews, and won the Excellence in Teaching Award. She also authored several publications appearing in nationally recognized journals and magazines, in addition to co-authoring a new edition of a book on entrepreneurship that has been described by Business Insider as “perhaps the most useful business book you can ever read.”

Professor Bagley also was the primary architect of Yale University’s new policies on sexual misconduct, she served as a core member of the University-Wide Committee for Sexual Misconduct and she continued to publicly advocate for equal treatment of women at Yale and for an end to sexual misconduct, including the creation of a hostile environment.  

Despite these achievements, the School of Management’s leadership (in decisions “tainted by sexual bias and retaliation,” she asserts) refused to renew her appointment. “Professor Bagley became the object of gender stereotyping,” her filing states.  “She didn’t fit the Yale vision of the young male SOM professor, or the more passive subordinate female professor who would bend to their will. Professor Bagley had the temerity to challenge gender biased decision-making and challenge the dominant, older male leadership.”

Her filing continues: “The conclusion by the Yale SOM leadership that she should be forced out of Yale then went searching for a reason.”  The lawsuit states that one professor told lies about her performance and capabilities out of discriminatory animus and that two superiors “further aided and abetted the discrimination by shifting standards for her review and ever changing the reasons for her non-renewal.”

And, so, Professor Bagley was replaced by two younger, less-experienced males.

But Professor Bagley decided to fight back.  She challenged the nonrenewal decision and raised concerns of bias. She filed an internal grievance with the University and a committee found that, not only had she relied to her detriment on the promises made at the time of hiring, but she had been subjected to “a chilly environment for women” and “inappropriate comments and behaviors based on gender.”

But she says the committee finding didn’t help. “Having had the temerity to complain about gender stereotyping and discrimination, (my) situation at Yale only became worse. Retaliation ensued.”  According to the lawsuit, for more than a year-and-a-half, Professor Bagley was forced to endure multiple and unusually lengthy and delayed pre-textual “review” processes.

As a result, despite the unanimous findings of two Yale SOM faculty review committees that Professor Bagley’s teaching, scholarship and service clearly warranted renewal, and in the face of a blatant lack of due process, her contract was not renewed. She must depart the University by December 31, 2014, with her reputation damaged and, she claims, “making relocation to another academic institution virtually impossible.”

Extreme?  Yes.  Happen every day?  Yes.