The Fourth Circuit recently issued a decision discussing whether a university professor established pay-related claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. This case has important implications for professional occupations where complainants seek to compare themselves to their colleagues for purposes of alleging pay discrimination.
Zoe Spencer, a sociology professor at Virginia State University (“VSU”), sued her employer for allegedly paying her less than two male professors because she is a woman. The district court granted summary judgment, and plaintiff appealed to the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision because (1) plaintiff failed to present evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact that the two male professors are appropriate comparators; and (2) in any event, unrebutted evidence shows that the VSU based the two male professors’ higher pay on their prior service as VSU administrators, not their sex.
The EEOC has been ordered to collect employers’ EEO-1 Component 2 pay data by September 30, 2019. The D.C. District Court issued the order after finding back in March 2019 that Office of Management and Budget (OMB’s) decision to stay the collection of Component 2 pay data lacked the reasoned explanation required by the Administrative Procedure Act. See our prior blog posts here, here, and here about National Women’s Law Center v. Office of Management and Budget, No. 17-cv-2458 (TSC) (D.D.C.). Since then the court has been critical of the EEOC’s compliance with its order, and held a status conference and a hearing in March and April. READ MORE
The world of professional sports has long grappled with criticism of the stark pay differences between male and female athletes – think Billie Jean King’s “equal pay for equal play” push. A recent case brought by twenty-eight players on the United States Women’s National Soccer team (WNT) against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) launched the issue back to the forefront of the pay equity arena earlier this month. READ MORE
Uncertainty continues for the EEOC’s attempt to expand the collection of employers’ pay data. Last Monday, the D.C. District Court in National Women’s Law Center v. Office of Management and Budget, No. 17-cv-2458 (TSC) (D.D.C. Mar. 4, 2019), reinstated the EEOC’s revised EEO-1 form that increases employers’ obligation to collect and submit pay data. READ MORE
In April 2018, an en banc Ninth Circuit held in Rizo v. Yovino that an employer cannot justify a wage differential between male and female employees under the Equal Pay Act by relying on prior salary. Before the Ninth Circuit published its decision, though, Judge Stephen Reinhardt passed away. On February 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision, reasoning that the appellate court should not have counted Reinhardt’s vote because he passed away before the decision was issued. Instead, the Ninth Circuit should not have released the opinion. READ MORE
Echoing an increasingly familiar refrain, another district court has declined to certify a class of women bringing pay equity claims on the basis that they did not present a common question capable of producing a common answer to “the crucial question why was I disfavored.” Relying largely upon Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the court found certification inappropriate because the putative class members were subject to countless independent decisions involving the judgment and discretion of individual managers. The case also serves as another reminder that courts (including California state courts) will not accept an overly simplistic analysis comparing broad job categories or titles, but will continue to look at actual business practices and job responsibilities to ensure comparators are “similarly situated” so a meaningful pay comparison can be made. READ MORE
In recent years, the volume of equal pay lawsuits has continued to increase in Silicon Valley, despite technology companies reaffirming their commitment to equal pay policies and practices. Earlier this month, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (“HP”) was hit with the latest equal pay lawsuit. The class action lawsuit, filed in Santa Clara Superior Court, alleges that HP discriminated against its female workers by paying them less than their male counterparts and funneling women into certain jobs based on stereotypes. READ MORE
In the wake of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Rizo v. Yovino, key employer-side groups have expressed support for U.S. Supreme Court review to determine whether employers who rely on prior salary to set starting pay can continue to do so consistent with the federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) (“EPA”). READ MORE
On August 28, 2018, a judge in Los Angeles County Superior Court issued one of the first decisions – if not the first decision – on a motion to certify a putative class action under the state’s revised Equal Pay Act, Cal. Labor Code § 1197.5 (“EPA”). See Bridewell-Sledge, et al. v. Blue Cross of California, No. BC477451 (Los Angeles Sup. Ct. Aug. 28, 2018) (Court’s Ruling and Order re: Pls.’ Mot. for Class Certification). Specifically, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to certify classes of all female and all African American non-exempt employees of Anthem Blue Cross California and related entities. The complaint alleged both violations of the EPA, as well as discrimination in promotions and pay in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Cal. Gov. Code §12900 et. seq.).
Big Law is no stranger to providing advice on pay equity or defending pay equity lawsuits. But until recently, headlines generally featured lawsuits challenging the compensation practices of their clients, not the law firms that represented them.
In the last two years, however, Big Law has itself moved into the spotlight with a wave of pay equity suits brought by aggrieved female partners and, in some cases, female associates. To date, the number of these suits against Big Law—either pending or concluded with multi-million-dollar settlements—has reached double digits and shows no signs of slowing down. We think the details are worth a second look—particularly in light of the complicated dynamics at play in how law firm partner compensation is set. READ MORE