Gender discrimination, retaliation (wrongful termination)

I am a 52 year old woman who held a highly responsible position for the last two years in a growing company. During this time I averaged a salary 25% below my male counterparts in the same level of management & about 50% less in other compensation (bonus/car allow). I even had one male whom I inherited on my staff who earned more than I. Recently I requested to to return to my former position & a male was hired to replace me with a beginning salary 50% more than I was paid to do substantially the same job. After only being with the co. for 2 months, he informed me he was going to cut my pay by $8,600/yr., well below the area market range for the position I was currently in. The following day I objected in writing to the pay reduction. I was fired less than a week later, without any prior warnings, without specifics, just that it "wasn't working out". I received no severance pay (which is company practice at my position level) & I was given a five page agreement to sign, waiving all my rights under a long list of protection acts, as well as numerous warranties from me regarding confidentiality & non-participation in any lawsuits. In return, the monetary payment would be $3,300. I have not signed it.

I had worked there for 3-1/2 years & was half way toward being fully vested in the co. pension plan (worth a considerable sum). The company has a history of paying women less than men (in key positions). Also, I have recently become aware of a pending lawsuit against the company in which I have been told I am named. Could it be that I was more valuable to them as an "ex" employee? Something smells rotten here. I am wondering if my protected rights have been violated. What do you think?

1 answer  |  asked Jun 5, 2003 3:22 PM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
equal pay claims raise lots of issues

The simple answer to your inquiry is that if everything you say is true and there are no other facts that pertain to your termination, you have a very good case. Unfortunately, there is always another side to every termination story.
The Equal Pay Act mandates that men and women be paid comparable wages for comparable work. A violation of this act is also a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment. Both laws also have provisions that prohibit retaliation for complaining about this form of discrimination. Each has somewhat different remedies and time limits, but both laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In some cases is makes sense to file suit as soon as possible, because the two/three year statute of limitations in the Equal Pay Act runs while you are waiting for the EEOC to complete its investigation.
I would recommend that you consult with an attorney and have him or her review the facts in detail. You will need to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC before you can file suit under Title VII. If the pay discrimination has been going on as long as you have been working for the company, part of your claim under the EPA has already been lost by the passage of time.
The fact that you may be a named defendant in a pending lawsuit may have something to do with the decision to terminate you. But that doesn't give you any recourse. It may prove to be the company's defense against the claim that you were fired for having made the complaint about discrimination. An attorney will need all the information you can provide in order to properly advise you of the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Jun 5, 2003 5:21 PM [EST]

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