Settlement Of Equal Pay Act Claims By Female Workers Does Not Provide Complete Defense Against A Later Suit By Male Workers For Resulting Unequal Pay

Volpe v. Nassau County, No. 12-CV-2416 (JFB-AKT) (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 3, 2013): Male police and fire department employees brought suit against Nassau County alleging that they received lower wages than those paid to women performing substantially similar work. Two years prior to the male plaintiffs’ lawsuit, in December 2011, female workers reached a court-approved, $8 million settlement of similar Equal Pay Act (EPA) claims against Nassau County. On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, Nassau County argued, inter alia, that the male workers’ lawsuit was precluded by the prior settlement. The court rejected this argument and held that a court-approved settlement does not automatically qualify as a “factor other than sex” when determining a plausible EPA claim. The fact that an alleged unequal pay structure was part of a voluntary, court-approved settlement does not create “a pocket of immunity” for employers under the EPA. This case shows that, when settling unequal pay claims, employers should ensure that payments made to the settling group do not create unequal pay issues with another group of employees, because the prior settlement will not provide an absolute defense.

Note: This article was published in the February 2013 issue of the New York eAuthority.

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.

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