Best Ohio Race Discrimination Attorney and Gender Discrimination Lawyer Answer: Can my race be used to decide my pay rate? If my male coworkers are being paid more than me for the same work, is that employment discrimination? Can my employer deny my request for a raise when White coworkers make more money than me?
After reading about the settlement in the case that serves as the topic of this blog, one of the first thoughts that will probably come to mind is how ironic the facts and allegations seem. In fact, you may even find yourself humming along with Alannis Morisette’s older hit, “Ironic.” A quick review of the comments under the video accompanying the song in the link above shows that many people disagree with whether the examples contained in the lyrics of Morisette’s song are indeed, ironic. For our purposes, the term, “situational irony“ will be defined as, “the disparity of intention and result; when the result of an action is contrary to the desired or expected effect.” Which takes us to the case at hand, United States of America v. Clark County. Even though the case was brought by the government, it was an action on behalf of an employee of Clark County, Therese Scupi.
Scupi was hired by Clark County in 1999 as a senior analyst in the Human Resources department. In 2002, Scupi was promoted to the position, Director of Diversity. As the Director of Diversity, part of Scupi’s responsibilities was to assist the county with making sure that it was following equal opportunity guidelines and preventing discrimination and harassment based on protected classes like race, gender, disability, age, and national origin. Scupi was responsible for training employees on the requirements of the laws designed to protect employees from discrimination and conduct equal opportunity investigations. The funny part is, Scupi discovered that even though she was tasked with helping to prevent harassment and discrimination, she herself was actually a victim of violations of both county policy and federal laws, including the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”). Scupi reviewed the pay structure of other employees who held the position of Director or even assistant director and discovered that she was being paid less than other Caucasian and male directors. Even Scupi’s predecessor who had less responsibility received a higher pay rate than her.
Incredibly, when Scupi brought the issue of disparity in pay to her supervisors, she alleged that nothing was done to correct the inequality. Scupi alleges that after she made verbal complaints the county conducted an analysis of pay rates, but included other non-county employees in the review. Scupi claims she complained again and was told to do her own analysis or investigation. In response, Scupi presented her findings about the actual disparity in pay between male and Caucasian directors, and although her pay grade was increased on paper, she claims she never received an actual increase in her pay. Scupi then filed a formal complaint several months later. Following Scupi’s formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), she alleges that she was retaliated against. Scupi was denied access to records, decreased her responsibilities, and interfering with her ability to perform the tasks she was assigned to complete. Based on her allegations, Scupi also had a viable and separate retaliation claim for the behavior she faced after filing the EEOC complaint. (Read our employment lawyers‘ blog on what makes a retaliation claim against your boss, manager, supervisor or job).
Scupi’s claims occurred in the State of Nevada, but were brought under federal laws. Her situation is therefore applicable to employees in Ohio. As we’ve blogged about before in race discrimination and gender discrimination situations, eligible Ohio employees are not only protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but also have protections embedded in state statues including, R.C. § 4112.02(A). These laws are designed to prevent employers from using race or gender as a factor when determining the rate of pay an employee will receive.
The Equal Pay Act provides added protection for women and mandates women be paid the same for equal work. You may have heard the expression, “equal pay for equal work.” that Under the Equal Pay Act, a woman’s job does not need be identical to the woman’s job, but the jobs must be substantially equivalent. Job equivalency is determined by the substance or content of the work performed and not by simply looking at each worker’s job titles. The Equal Pay Act covers all forms of compensation, including wages, overtime wages, vacation pay, expense allowances, bonus structures, stock options, insurance, and any other benefits.
Additionally, both Ohio and Federal law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who has engaged in protected activity. For example, if the employee opposed a practice he or she reasonably believes is made unlawful by one of the employment discrimination statutes or of filing a charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the statute. If that is the case, the employer cannot fire, demote, discipline or take other adverse actions against the employee after he or she complained about discrimination or harassment.
Although Scupi filed the claim while she was still employed, part of the terms included in the $80,000 settlement led to Scupi resigning. In addition to the lump sum payment, the County also agreed to provide Scupi with a three year retroactive pay increase, which means her settlement could likely end up being over six figures. Isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think? I wonder if the employer hired a White male or a minority to replace her. I also am a little curious how much the replacement is being paid.
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