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Big Win For Equal Pay

Jon Allison

Jon Allison’s Monday Blog

Last week I blogged about how the use of salary at a prior job to set starting salary at a new job often held down compensation for women throughout their careers.  This blog is about an individual win for equal pay that should result in fair pay for the remainder of the career of one woman, Joanna Smith.

Smith held a degree in civil engineering and over 5 years of experience when she was hired into an Engineer III position with Prince George’s County in Maryland.  Smith attempted to negotiate a salary she believed was consistent with her education and experience, but the county refused.  Then just two weeks later it hired a male for another Engineer III position and paid him the higher salary he requested even though Smith and the male employee would be performing the same work.  The county was also paying a male in a lower position, Engineer II, more than Smith despite him having less experience and performing less complex duties.

Smith and the EEOC filed suit in 2015.  In March of this year the district court ruled that the county was, in fact, paying lower wages to Smith than to her male colleagues performing equal work in violation of the Equal Pay Act.  The county has now agreed to pay approximately $145,000 in back wages and other damages.  More importantly it agreed to raise Smith’s salary by $24,723 annually which will put her on equal footing with her male counterparts going forward.  The county also agreed to hire a consultant to assist it in making sure its compensation policies and salary determinations are compliant with the Equal Pay Act.

Prince George’s To Pay $145,402 And Increase Female Engineer’s Salary To Settle EEOC Pay Bias Suit

EEOC Sues Prince George’s County for Pay Discrimination

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The Use Of Salary History To Pay A Woman Less

Jon Allison

Jon Allison’s Monday blog

In 2016, California and Massachusetts became the first two states to enact legislation preventing employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.  25 states and the District of Columbia are considering enacting similar legislation.  The reason is that employers’ use of salary history in determining what to pay an employee has resulted in women being paid less than men on a widespread basis.

Last week NPR ran a story on this issue highlighting the experience of Aileen Rizo.  Rizo, after four years of employment with Fresno County, California as a math teaching consultant, learned that a newly hired male employee with less experience and less education had been hired in at about 20 percent more than she was being paid.  When she complained to Human Resources, she was told that her salary was based on previous pay at another job and that her salary would remain as is even though she was doing a good job, had more tenure with the employer, had more experience and had more education.

Rizo filed suit back in 2012 asserting a violation of the Equal Pay Act.  She won at the district court level but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision.  In the years after she filed suit, cities and states began looking into passing laws to prevent asking about salary history.  The ruling by the Ninth Circuit shows the need for such legislation.

Proposals Aim To Combat Discrimination Based On Salary History : NPR

Illegal in Massachusetts: Asking Your Salary in a Job Interview – The …

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How Much Is Your Perfume Worth? $3.3 Million If Your Coworker Is Allergic To It

Jon Allison

Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
Last week, John Barrie, a staff services analyst for the California Department of Transportation, won a $ 3.3 million dollar verdict against CDT because it failed to accommodate his disability, subjected him to a hostile environment and retaliated against him when he complained. Barrie began working for CDT in 2005 and during the first week of his employment told his supervisors of his condition (severe allergies to perfumes and certain cleaning products). He was granted an informal accommodation which meant that CDT took steps to make sure perfumes and certain cleaning products were not near his work space. After 5 years of smooth sailing Barrie got a new supervisor in 2010. She was not interested in adhering to the informal accommodation. Barrie began having trouble with perfumes in his workplace and talked to his boss. She told him she didn’t want to hear it. So he started making internal complaints to human resources. Then he was told he was a trouble maker. He also faced retaliation. He came into work to find that his work space had been intentionally sprayed with perfume. A lumbar pillow was doused with perfume. He continued to complain. In 2012 CDT found during a surprise inspection that Barrie was being retaliated against via intentional spraying of his work area with perfume and placement of scented products in his work area. He was then relocated to another facility and told he had to do the janitorial work at that facility, which would require using cleaning products. He filed suit in 2013. The jury trial lasted 12 days and resulted in the several million dollar verdict. Now, CDT is letting Barrie perform his analyst duties from home. His attorney couldn’t believe it came to this. He didn’t think it would even get to the point of filing a lawsuit. All CDT had to do was keep perfumes and chemicals out of Barrie’s work space.
Jury Awards $3 Million To Caltrans Employee Bullied At Work
Caltrans worker wins $3 million allergy lawsuit
Nevada City Cal Trans Worker Gets $3 Million Award
Caltrans Employee Awarded $3 Million In Bullying Lawsuit

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Hostile Racial Environment At Fenway

Jon Allison

Jon Allison’s Monday Blog

With the Reds playing so well (all alone in first to start the day) it’s easy to be paying attention to baseball. Consequently, I read about what happened last Tuesday at Fenway Park where I otherwise might not have. Many are aware that on Monday night, fans at Fenway Park shouted racist slurs at Orioles center fielder Adam Jones during the game and one fan hurled a bag of peanuts at him. The reaction was swift. The owner of the Red Sox personally apologized. The Mayor of Boston and the Governor of Massachusetts condemned the conduct. An investigation was launched. Boston NAACP President said it is concerning that someone would think they could go to a crowded stadium, use that type of racially charged language, and suffer no consequences. Then the next day fans gave Jones a standing ovation before his first plate appearance.
But it happened again Tuesday night (the night Jones would receive a standing ovation) right after the singing of the national anthem. According to Calvin Hennick, a white Boston Rex Sox fan who was attending the game with his 6 year old son, who is African-American, and his Haitian father-in-law, a “middle-aged white fan” complained aloud that the Kenyon woman who sang the national anthem made it “too long, and she n****** it up.” Hennick was concerned, particularly for his son who was attending his first game. When Hennick turned and asked the man if he really just said that, the man repeated the slur and said “that’s right, and I stand by it.” Hennick reported the incident to an usher and the man was eventually kicked out. Hennick was surprised the man would make these comments to him of all people as he was sitting next to his African-American family. Hennick said, “then I realized that that was the whole point. He wanted to prove that he could say whatever he wanted. It was a finger to the eye.”
There are a lot of parallels between what happened at Fenway Park and what ought to happen at the workplace when conduct like this occurs – bad conduct, bad conduct reported, bad conduct investigated, consequences for the offender. Just a couple of weeks ago the United States District Court for the Second Circuit held that, in the employment context, a single racial slur might provide sufficient basis for a hostile work environment claim under the right circumstances. It seems a no brainer that asking a 6 year old African-American kid who was attending his first ever baseball game to sit next to an adult using the N word and then “standing by it” would have a significant negative impact on that kid.
Boston Red Sox Fan Reports A Racial Slur, And A Lifetime Ban
Red Sox eject, ban fan from Fenway Park for life for racial slur
Boston Red Sox fan reports another for racial slur at Fenway Park
Racial slur leads to fan being banned from Fenway Park

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Race Discrimination At Fox News

Jon Allison

Jon Allison’s Monday Blog

In addition to the multiple claims of sexual harassment Fox News has been dealing with, a high profile African-American reporter and the only African-American anchor at Fox News, Kelly Wright, last week joined a lawsuit brought by more than 10 employees complaining of systemic race discrimination at Fox News. Wright, an Emmy-winning anchor and an employee of Fox News for 14 years, said at a news conference “The (network) failed to be fair and balanced for all of our employees regardless of race, gender, faith, creed or color.”

It should not be surprising to see the reports of discrimination/harassment mounting. The women who made internal complaints about Bill O’Reilly say they were told by Fox News there was nothing that could be done because it’s Bill O’Reilly so they just had to put up with it. So, a number of employees with legitimate complaints chose to suffer in silence rather than push the issue. Now that employees are seeing some results, they are speaking up.

Of course, “there’s nothing we can do” is simply not the right response to a complaint of discrimination and/or harassment. If you have a legitimate concern that you are being discriminated against or harassed at work, you should investigate your rights. Many companies have policies in place that address discrimination, harassment, retaliation, procedures for making complaints and what is supposed to happen when a complaint is made. You can also consult an employment attorney.

Fox News hit with racial discrimination and harassment lawsuit from

Fox News Anchor Kelly Wright: ‘Indefensible and Inexcusable’ – Variety

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