Have You Audited Your Pay Practices Lately?

By Kathleen Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

A Maryland county learned the hard way that attacking wage discrimination based on sex, race, and other protected characteristics is an EEOC enforcement priority. Last week, Prince George’s County, Maryland entered into a Consent Decree with the EEOC and agreed to pay $145,402 in lost wages, damages, and costs to settle an EEOC lawsuit for a female engineer who was paid thousands less per year than male employees doing substantially the same job. (EEOC v. Prince George’s Cnty., D. Md., No. 15-2942, consent decree entered 6/1/17). In addition, the County agreed to hire a consultant to ensure future wage parity between female and male employees who perform substantially similar work in the county’s Department of Environment, provide equal employment opportunity training for its managers and supervisors, file periodic reports with the EEOC, and post workplace notices about the settlement. The county also increased the female engineer’s annual salary from $82,294 to $107,017 to align her pay with her male counterparts.

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the County paid the female engineer less than male colleagues even though she did equal, and in some cases, more complex and superior work. In March, the Court ruled that the EEOC proved the county was liable under the Equal Pay Act by paying the female engineer a lower salary than male engineers performing substantially equal work. The EEOC and the county settled to avoid “the time and expense of continued litigation,” according to the Consent Decree.

Pro Tip: Have you audited your pay practices lately? Employers should regularly review their pay practices to make sure that they are not engaging in discrimination. If any differentials do exist, employers should make sure that they are based on legitimate and nondiscriminatory factors and supported by written documentation, and if they are not, they should correct them promptly. By doing so, employers may dramatically reduce the chance that they will be faced with a claim for wage discrimination.

Kathleen Jennings, Principal is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in sexual harassment and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

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