Don’t sweat minor compensation differences

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in Compensation and Benefits,Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Ever since enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, pay equity has been a hot employment law topic. In the intervening years, many employers have proactively gone over their pay scales and made adjustments after discovering apparent pay inequalities that crept in over the years.

If you have done so, and are sure your pay systems are free of lingering discrimination, it’s safe to relax. Going forward, it’s perfectly legitimate to adjust pay according to factors other than sex, race or other protected characteristics.

You can, for example, adjust pay by location, workload, experience and a whole host of other business-related reasons.

Recent case: Ashok is a board-certified psychiatrist who was educated in India and the United States. He worked at one of Texana Behavioral Healthcare’s facilities, treating adult patients. The position paid $165,000 per year and required him to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week.

When Ashok declared to his supervisor that he was going on an indefinite vacation, he was fired.

Ashok sued, alleging he had been forced to quit because another psy­­chi­­atrist, a white woman, was allowed to work three days per week. She earned around $100,000 working her short schedule. According to Ashok’s calculations, that meant he made less per hour than she did and had a less favorable schedule.

The court briefly looked at the figures, but refused to engage in an exact calculation. It pointed out that the employer had other reasons for allowing the woman a different schedule. She had a specialty certification in child psychiatry and worked at two different locations. That alone was grounds for a different pay arrangement. It threw out Ashok’s case. (Jain v. Texana Behavioral Healthcare, No. H-10-2119, SD TX, 2012)

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