Always prepare accurate job descriptions for each position. That way, if an employee challenges pay differences, you will be ready to show that jobs and duties that sound similar at first blush aren’t really comparable.
That can come in handy if an employee claims some form of discrimination based on race or other protected characteristic.
Recent case: Claude Hunter worked for the Wake County Board of Education as a custodial field supervisor. Hunter, who is black, supervised and managed the work of custodians and independent contractors who provided custodial services for the school district. He managed job assignments, set schedules, tracked time cards and inspected custodial work.
All in all, Hunter supervised custodial work in 18 schools, managing 100 employees, many of whom were black.
During a reorganization following a compensation study, Hunter’s salary rose modestly, while other classifications of supervisors got larger increases. Hunter retired shortly after and then sued, alleging that the other supervisors, who were mostly white, had received bigger pay increases for similar work.
The school district showed the court how it had arrived at the revised salary schedules and argued that the supervisory group Hunter said was most similar to his really wasn’t.
It said supervisors of buildings and grounds performed different tasks than custodial supervisors. For example, they supervised higher-skilled employees who sometimes held certifications and licenses, as did many of the supervisors.
Those differences were enough to get the case dismissed. (Hunter v. Wake County Board of Education, No. 5:08-CV-62, ED NC, 2010)
Final note: Employees often sue for race discrimination if they see what appear to be clusters of co-workers belonging to the same protected category seemingly placed in lower-paying, less prestigious jobs.