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Court Rejects School Administrator’s Equal Pay Act Claim

Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued an opinion in a case involving a plaintiff’s claim under the Equal Pay Act, in which the plaintiff claimed that she was paid significantly less than her male counterpart despite having more responsibility. The case is illustrative for those considering bringing a case alleging New York wage discrimination because it discusses the federal standards governing these claims.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a superintendent of the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) between the years of 2006 and 2010. When she left the position in 2010 to accept a new superintendent position, she was paid approximately $88,000, including a bilingual bonus. The plaintiff’s new position was a newly created superintendent position that placed her above both the ISD as well as the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI).

Prior to the merging of the position, the ISVI superintendent, a male, was paid approximately $121,000. When negotiating her salary for the new position, the plaintiff asked for a salary that was greater than the previous salary paid to the superintendent of the ISVI. However, the district refused to pay the plaintiff that much, and the parties negotiated a salary of $106,500.

The plaintiff filed a claim in federal court under the Equal Pay Act. The plaintiff alleged that despite the fact that she was taking on more responsibility than the previous superintendent, she was offered a lower salary because she was a woman. The state defended against the plaintiff’s claims by arguing that the plaintiff’s salary was not based on her sex and that the salary was a function of her previous salary – which was lower than the previous superintendent’s – as well as budgetary concerns.

The Court’s Analysis

The court began its analysis by stating that an Equal Pay Act claim requires that the plaintiff first establish a prima facie case under the Act. In order to do so, the plaintiff must establish “a difference in pay for ‘equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” Here, the court agreed with the plaintiff that she did establish a prima facie case.

The court then explained that once the plaintiff meets her initial burden, the burden then shifts to the state, which must show some neutral, non-discriminatory reason for the discrepancy. Here, the court held that the state’s reliance on budgetary concerns as well as the plaintiff’s previous salary were sufficient reasons. The court noted that the evidence presented indicated that the state did indeed rely on these factors when making the salary decision.

Interestingly, the court acknowledged that relying on previous salary to make a salary determination may also be discriminatory if the original salary was a product of discrimination. However, here, the plaintiff did not make that argument, so the court did not consider it.

Have You Been Unfairly Compensated?

If you believe that you are not being fairly compensated because of your sex, you should contact a dedicated New York employment contract attorney to discuss your case. It may be that you are entitled to additional compensation. The dedicated New York civil rights and employment law attorneys at the Law Offices of Ira S. Newman have extensive experience handling all types of New York discrimination cases, including Equal Pay Act cases. Call 800-206-7375 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Teacher Fired for “Inappropriate” Comments Files Retaliation Lawsuit, New York Business Litigation Attorney Blog, December 12, 2017.

Housing Discrimination Is Illegal in New York City, New York Business Litigation Attorney Blog, November 27, 2017.