The University of Washington has settled a class-action lawsuit with part-time faculty, agreeing to pay them $500,000 in merit raises for...

The University of Washington has settled a class-action lawsuit with part-time faculty, agreeing to pay them $500,000 in merit raises for the past six years.

As part of the settlement, the UW also will give returning part-time instructors a 6 percent pay increase next year, an amount which the university estimated at about $290,000.

The settlement affects nearly 1,000 part-time UW lecturers who have taught at least one quarter for two consecutive years between 2000 and 2007.

A King County Superior Court judge approved the agreement last week.

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The agreement is the latest in a string of victories for instructors at the state’s two- and four-year institutions.

A year ago, the UW Board of Regents approved a $17.5 million settlement with full-time faculty over pay raises.

And three years ago, the state of Washington agreed to pay $11 million to settle a class-action suit with part-time community-college instructors over summertime health-insurance benefits.

“I feel that this was a pretty significant accomplishment,” said attorney Rick Gautschi, who represented part-time faculty members at the UW, “to have the university at least recognize part-time lecturers who do substantial amounts of teaching as being important.”

Susan Helf, a part-time lecturer at the university, filed the lawsuit in May 2006. Helf, who claimed that part-time faculty should receive the 2 percent annual merit increase given to full-time faculty, will receive an additional $10,000 as part of the settlement.

“I’m very proud to be the namesake of this lawsuit even though I was potentially risking my job,” she said. “I hope the outcome of this case will inspire other part-time faculty to seek equitable treatment at their colleges or universities.”

UW attorney Michael Madden could not be reached Tuesday. A UW spokesman had no comment.

About $195,000 of the settlement will go to lawyers representing the faculty.

Before the 1999 policy granting faculty members annual merit increases, many raises at the UW went to newly recruited full-time faculty and those who had threatened to leave. The UW settlement with full-time faculty last year included a merit raise for 2002-03, which the university said it had not provided because of a lack of funding from the state Legislature that year.

“I personally have no doubt that had we not filed this lawsuit, there would have been no motivation on the part of the university to include part-timers in the merit increase,” said Gautschi.

Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315 or