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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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The Sexual Harassment Factor

Jon Allison

Jon Allison’s Monday Blog

No doubt almost everyone is aware that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News parted ways last week following new allegations of sexual harassment. This happened less than a year after Fox News had to get rid of Roger Ailes for the same reason. The New York Times published an article on April 1 detailing a series of sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly and how Fox News and its parent company repeatedly stood by O’Reilly and paid out tens of millions to settle with the women who complained. In fact, Fox News settled two of the sexual harassment cases against O’Reilly after Ailes left. It also extended O’Reilly’s contract. Women at Fox News questioned whether the company was serious about creating a different culture as it had promised last year following the Ailes scandal. Those questions still remain.

What drove O’Reilly out was most likely dollars rather than a desire to do the right thing. A month ago, there were at least 30 nationally broadcast commercials each night on “The O’Reilly Factor.” In the weeks following the article, most major brands withdrew all advertising dollars from the program.

For his part, O’Reilly (and Ailes for that matter) has denied all of the allegations. But consider this. The women who made the allegations against O’Reilly worked for him and/or appeared on his show. If there was a place to advance your career, his show was it. Yet many still complained, even though they feared it could ruin their careers.

The Ailes and O’Reilly fiascos should result in corporations taking the issue of sexual harassment more seriously. As an employment attorney I’ve consulted with many women who told me of sexual harassment but were concerned that if they complained they would suffer retaliation. Hopefully after these two high profile men were forced out, more women with legitimate complaints will be willing to come forward and more employers will address the concerns appropriately.

Bill O’Reilly Thrives at Fox News, Even as Harassment Settlements …

Why Was Bill O’Reilly Really Fired? – The Atlantic

Bill O’Reilly Is Forced Out at Fox News – The New York Times

 

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Ohio’s Minimum Wage Going Up

Jon Allison

Jon Allison’s Monday Blog

On January 1, 2017 the minimum wage in Ohio will increase from $8.10 an hour to $8.15 an hour. Ohio employers with gross receipts of more than $299,000 must pay Ohio minimum wage.  Ohio employers with gross receipts of less than that must pay federal minimum wage which is currently $7.25 an hour. Back in 2006 voters in Ohio passed an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution tying the minimum wage in Ohio to the rate of inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index. With the election coming up and because federal law trumps state law (pun intended), it’s worth a look at the positions of the presidential candidates on the federal minimum wage. Clinton is in favor of raising the federal minimum wage to $12.00 an hour. An Ohioan working 40 hours a week would see an increase in yearly earnings from $15,080 (which is below the poverty threshold for a family of at least 2) to $24,960. Trump has recently voiced support for raising the federal minium wage to $10.00 an hour which would result in yearly earnings of $20,800.

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Female Law Partner’s Gender Bias Suit Against Her Current Employer Raises Concerns of Pay Equality

Katherine Neff

Kerrie L. Campbell filed suit against her current employer, the law firm Chadbourne & Parke, alleging that she was shut out of leadership positions and paid far less than male partners at her level. According to Ms. Campbell, Chadbourne’s management committee, which determines the compensation for the firm’s partners, is made up of five men, who award male partners more points, which translate into higher dollar compensation, than they do to women. After complaining to the managing partner of pay inequaility, Ms. Campbell alleges that she was told her employment would end at the end of August and her pay was substantially reduced to that of an entry-level associate.
Other women have filed similar suits against their large law firm employers. Last month, Traci M. Ribeiro sued her firm Sedgwick, a large San Francisco based law firm, alleging that the “male-dominated culture” resulted in female lawyers being denied equal pay and equal promotions. Similarly, Kamee Verdrager’s case against her former employer Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsly and Popeo of Boston, is set for trial on her gender discrimination claims. Ms. Verdrager contends that the firm reduced her seniority by two years — which affected her level of pay — then later fired her.
In 2014, Sky Analytics, who provides spend management software to corporate legal departments, released its first ever gender study using actual billing records from law firms. The study, along with a National Association of Women Lawyers study on gender biases in the legal profession, highlighted the pay disparity between men and women. We blogged about these studies in 2014.
Hopefully the publicity surrounding these lawsuits, along with the 2014 studies on gender biases in the legal profession, will empower other women to continue coming forward and motivate law firms to cease their unequal billing practices.
Female Lawyer’s Gender-Bias Suit Challenges Law Firm Pay Practices by Elizabeth Olsonaug of The New York Times. Published August 31, 2016.

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