Equal Pay Act: Male employee's strong negotiating skills not a "factor other than sex" to justify pay differential

by Mintz Levin - Employment Matters
Contact

The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying a female employee less than a male employee for work that requires substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that is performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment. The EPA does not require proof of discriminatory intent, and an employer will be held liable to a woman who is paid less than a similarly-situated man unless it can show that the discrepancy is attributable to: (1) a bona fide seniority system; (2) a merit system; (3) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (4) any factor other than sex. 

Most federal courts- but not all- have interpreted the EPA’s “factor other than sex” defense to require an employer to show that the pay differential is consistent with a legitimate business purpose.  Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Vermont weighed in, finding that “factors other than sex” must be business-related and capable of explaining the entirety of the pay gap alleged. 

In Dreves v. Hudson Group (HG) Retail, LLC., the female plaintiff was terminated and replaced with a man, who was paid $52,500, whereas the plaintiff had been paid approximately $48,500.  Plaintiff brought claims under the EPA and the Vermont equivalent, but moved for summary judgment only on her state law claim. However, as the Court noted, the state and federal statutes are substantially identical and it applied federal law in deciding the plaintiff’s summary judgment motion.

The employer defended the motion for summary judgment on the basis that it had used “factors other than sex” in deciding to pay plaintiff’s male replacement more than it had paid plaintiff.  Specifically, the employer claimed that it had to pay the male replacement more as an inducement to relocate to Vermont with his wife, who held a part-time job in New Hampshire, and his children, who were in school.  The employer further argued that the male replacement drove a hard bargain, by rejecting the first offer made to him as too low.

Not good enough, the Court held, in finding that the employer had violated the Vermont EPA.  Consideration of the male replacement’s family circumstances was not related in any way to the unique characteristics of the position, his qualities or abilities, or any critical need of the employer’s operation.  Further, the Court found, “there is simply no basis for the proposition that a male comparator’s ability to negotiate a higher salary is a legitimate business-related justification to pay a woman less.”  To hold otherwise, the Court continued, would require it to accept the argument, repudiated by the Supreme Court in Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, that employers are justified in paying men more than women because market forces are such that men command higher salaries in the marketplace

This case underscores the need for employers to make carefully reasoned, gender-neutral compensation decisions, based on business-related factors such as skills and experience.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Mintz Levin - Employment Matters | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Mintz Levin - Employment Matters
Contact
more
less

Mintz Levin - Employment Matters on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.