Sometimes, sex bias sneaks up on you. Over the years, and even the decades, disparities widen between what women and men are paid for doing the same work—especially if women were hired at a lower rate than men. Even if everyone gets the same percentage increase every year, the disparity will grow.
Although last year’s famous Ledbetter U.S. Supreme Court case says women have only a short time to complain about a hiring salary or pay increase, that doesn’t mean salary disparities won’t cause trouble.
As the following case shows, it doesn’t take much for a sex discrimination complaint to turn into a trial. Sometimes all it takes to start a Title VII sex discrimination and Equal Pay Act lawsuit is hiring a woman to fill a position that had been previously held by men who made more money.
Advice: Make sure a newly appointed female employee’s salary is comparable to what her male predecessors earned. Otherwise, you may have to explain the disparity in court.
Recent case: Jeannette Tamayo worked for the Illinois state government as a deputy chief counsel. She received a salary of $107,000 per year. Then her employer promoted her to an acting agency-administrator position. She was the first woman to hold the post. The previous administrators received annual salaries ranging from $140,000 to $160,000. Tamayo claimed she had been promised a big raise but never got one. She eventually quit and sued.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said she had enough sex discrimination evidence to go to trial. She alleged she was promised the same salary as her male predecessors and never got the increase. According to Tamayo, the reason was illegal sex and pay discrimination. The court said she can have her day in court. (Tamayo v. Blagojevich, et al., No. 07-2975, 7th Cir., 2008)
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