County Settles Equal Pay Act Claim By Its Own HR Director for $250,000

PERRY, FLORIDA –  County commissioners in Taylor County, Florida approved a $250,000 payment to my client this past Monday to settle her lawsuit alleging, among other things, that she was paid less than males of comparable position, knowledge, skills and experience.

My client, a 53-year old female, was hired by the county in January 2013.  She held the position of Human Resource Director, which is the county’s top official for personnel matters.   During her employment, her lawsuit alleges, she discovered that less educated, less experienced males in similar positions were being provided greater benefits and salaries.  She spoke to the County Administrator about the gender inequity in her salary on several occasions.  But nothing was done to correct it.   This lawsuit followed.

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) was passed 54 years ago with the signature of President John F. Kennedy.  But major gender differences in pay still exist in nearly every workplace.  The key provision of the law forbidding differences in pay reads as follows:

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility….

In proving these kind of cases, I usually compare my client’s overall compensation to the salaries and benefits being paid to men in similar positions.  The positions held by men need not be perfectly identical. (Otherwise, employers could justify pay differences by making even slight changes to position descriptions.)   Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Importantly, all forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.  And if there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.  In other words, an employer cannot avoid liability by suddenly reducing the pay of males.

If you suspect you are being paid less than men in comparable positions, talk to an expert in employee rights.  Look for a lawyer who only represents employees – no employers – and who only practices in the area of employment law.  This increases the odds that the lawyer you speak to will have the expertise you need.

Thanks.

Jim Garrity

Employee Rights Lawyer, Florida & Georgia



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