FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On July 26, A University of Arkansas employee filed a lawsuit against her employer, alleging racial discrimination regarding her employment status and pay at the school.

Dr. Synetra Hughes, 41, filed the suit in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court in Fayetteville, with one count of Race Discrimination and another of Retaliation that violated her Title VII rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Hughes also filed a charge of discrimination against the university with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on April 26.

The July 26 filing notes that Hughes, a Black female, began working at UA in July 2014 as a Student Programs Director. In September 2017 she was promoted to Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, but her state-designated title remained Project/Program Director.

The document states that her responsibilities “increased substantially as she was second in command,” but that the university “did not increase compensation because they said her role was deemed ‘provisional’ and there was ‘no funding.'” She continued to question the pay disparity and was told by “multiple individuals” that “because she makes more than most people in her position that she had not been considered for pay increases outside of annual merit increase in pay.”

Hughes’ filing states that the university used her state title to prohibit a pay increase. On August 12, 2021 she was notified that she was receiving another promotion and that her title would change to Managing Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She alleges that her working title changed but her state title remained the same.

She was allegedly given a 2.5% increase in pay after further complaints and was told that was “all that they could do,” even though the job “required substantially more work.” Hughes then requested state-reported salaries from 2017-2022 per the Freedom of Information Act. The plaintiff says that this information “showed her non-Black colleagues were promoted and hired at much higher compensation rates and amounts than she had been afforded.”

Hughes’ filing adds that since making her EEOC complaint, she has “been subjected to retaliatory behavior” including “being excluded from the Remote Work Pilot Program that was given to many in the college except her office.” She also says that she was “accused of violating multiple UA policies by the Interim Chancellor.”

Defendant’s actions were fraudulent, malicious, wanton and willful, gross and egregious, exhibited a conscious disregard for Plaintiff’s rights, and had a great probability of causing substantial harm.

Synetra Hughes v. University of Arkansas, July 26

Her filing of the first charge, Race Discrimination, states that she was treated differently “than Caucasian employees” as well as being paid less, and was passed over for promotions because of her race. The second charge, Retaliation, also notes that the university was “treating her worse and paying her less” after her complaints. The filing also alleges that UA passed her over for promotion and changed the requirements of her job position.

Hughes is seeking pay and benefits, damages and attorney’s fees from the university.