Are different wages for same task gender discrimination?

by on December 12, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Court says yes under Equal Pay Act, if one worker is on overtime and the other isn’t.

It’s gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act to pay men and women differently when they perform equal work under similar working conditions, unless – as in this case – the pay differential is based on a factor other than gender.

Two workers, Patrick Fyfe and Sharon Zettle, were public employees in a large city. Both of their job descriptions included responsibility for spraying pesticides in a public garden.

Fyfe was unhappy because Zettle received overtime for the spraying and he didn’t. The reason was that while Zettle worked an eight-hour shift, Fyfe worked a split shift, coming in early in the day and then returning late in the day to work the balance of his eight hours.

Since the spraying had to be done after the public had left the garden at days’ end, Zettle sprayed after hours and got paid overtime for it.

Fyfe, because he worked a split shift, was only paid his regular wage for the task.

For Fyfe, that seemed unfair. Same task, different pay. Must be sex discrimination. So he filed a gender discrimination suit the city for violating the Equal Pay Act.

The court ruled for the city. Yes the task was the same, but Zettle could only spray the garden after the public departed, so she had no choice but to do it at the end of her eight-hour shift. She was therefore entitled to overtime.

Fyfe got paid less because he sprayed during his regular (split) shift. The disparity had nothing to do with his gender.

Cite: Fyfe v. City of Fort Wayne, U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, No. 98-CV-0353, 2/22/01

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