Supervisor’s take-home: If you provide a pay increase to a male crew member in order to prevent him from bolting to another company, keep in mind that women performing essentially the same job duties might have to receive a raise as well in order for your employer to remain in compliance with the Equal Pay Act.
What happened: Two women were paid competitive wages and received regular pay increases. Things changed, however, when a male coworker was offered a job with a competitor and got a pay bump so that he wouldn’t leave.
What people did: The two women found out that the man was being paid more than they were, even though they had essentially the same jobs.
Legal challenge: The women sued under the Equal Pay Act, arguing that the pay difference between them and the male coworker was unrelated to seniority, skills, or merit, but was instead due to gender. They said that all the jobs required comparable skills, education and experience.
The company countered that it had a nondiscriminatory explanation for the pay disparity, noting that the man was given a higher salary so that he wouldn’t jump ship.
Result: The company lost. The court ruled that the women may have suffered pay discrimination based on their gender. The judge said that the women had the same job as the man who was paid more than they were. The court added that the company’s explanation for the pay difference may have been a pretext for bias because the pay gap couldn’t be fully justified by the competing job offer made to the male worker.
The skinny: Women seeking relief under the Equal Pay Act don’t typically have to meet a high standard of proof in court. Any evidence that a male coworker handling similar job duties has gotten a raise that puts him in a higher pay range – no matter the reason for the increase – could be adequate proof of unequal pay.
Cite: Galligan v. Detroit Free Press, U.S. District Court, E.D. Michigan, No. 17-cv-13349, 1/29/20.
(From the Feb. 21, 2020, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors)