Was it discrimination to pay a woman less than a man with the same title?
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Was it discrimination to pay a woman less than a man with the same title?

Bea Carlson tapped a folder on the desk for emphasis. “Paul Sturdivant is the assistant manager of the Elgin store,” Bea said. “He makes $40,000 a year. I’ve been assistant manager of the Matthews Mall store for six months, and my annual rate is still $25,000. Something doesn’t add up.”

Regional manager Colette Babcock looked sympathetically at Bea, who was a valued employee for her drive and her savvy with customers.

Good review in her future
“Bea, I understand what you’re saying,” Colette told her. “You are doing an excellent job, and if things continue to go as well as they are at the Mall, we’ll be looking at a strongly favorable review for you in October. That’s just four months away.”

“That’s nice to hear,” Bea said. “But is that all?”

“Well, it’s all for now,” Colette said.

Additional duties
“I came in expecting you’d do something about my salary before October,” Bea said curtly. “I’ve been putting up with a discriminatory situation since last Christmas, and I think I’ve waited long enough for some fairness.”

“Wait a minute,” Colette said. “Who said anything about discrimination? Paul has other duties that we haven’t asked you to take on yet. There’s no reason for you to expect pay parity at this point.”

“I think there is,” Bea said.

“You will have to be patient,” Colette said. “Patience and self-control are also qualities we like to see in a manager.”

“We’ll see about that,” Bea said, getting up to go. Later, Bea sued the company under the Equal Pay Act, claiming she made less because of her gender. Did she win?

The decision
No, Bea didn’t win her case.

She based her argument on the fact that she and Paul had the same job title. As a result, she said, she should get the same pay. Because she got less than a man with the same title, that proved she was a victim of unequal pay, in violation of the Equal Pay Act, she said


The courts said that under the Equal Pay Act, the job title wasn’t the only thing to consider. In fact, it was a relatively minor consideration.

Bea had to show that she and Paul did equivalent work, and she failed to. In fact, Paul did substantially more than she did. Although Bea wasn’t aware of it, Paul was also helping Colette put together an important regional employee satisfaction survey on top of his assistant manager duties.

Managers and supervisors take note: To make sure that you’re being fair with pay when making assignments and promotions, the important things to look at are not titles but rather job responsibilities, the person’s skill and effort, and the conditions of work. If two employees have similar duties and similar skills, and work equally hard and in similar conditions, they should get similar salaries.

Cite: Tiedeman v. Nebraska Dept. of Corrections, No. 04-3731, 8th Cir.

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