In what is being called the largest settlement in the history of religious discrimination lawsuits brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Apollo Group Inc. has agreed to pay $1.89 million for the alleged discrimination at its University of Phoenix Online division against its non-Mormon employees.
In the 2006 class action lawsuit, 52 former enrollment counselors claimed that the University of Phoenix gave members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preferential treatment for promotions, sales leads, and tuition grants and wavers as well as numerous other perks. The EEOC’s investigation of the for-profit school discovered a prevalence of religion-based hiring and promotion practices there.
The University of Phoenix is the country’s largest private university, enrolling more than 300,000 students every semester in online and campus programs. Apollo Group’s annual sales this fiscal year alone exceeded $3 billion. Since the settlement, it has said both that it is "pleased to have resolved this matter," and that the $1.89 million won’t significantly affect its financial standing.
According to Apollo, its agreement to the settlement does not signal an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. It does, however, put provisions in place to ensure that religious and other discrimination will not occur again at the University of Phoenix. The company must now hire a diversity officer to monitor its behavior and make sure EEO training is given to all of its higher-ups, including managers and supervisors with hiring power. It must also send a written announcement to all supervisors, managers and employee relations personnel declaring "zero tolerance" for Mormon favoritism. According to the consent decree Apollo has signed, any manager found to be engaging in favoritism will immediately be fired. The EEOC will keep close watch on the University of Phoenix for a period of four years to ensure its compliance with the agreement.