In pay discrimination cases, job duties—not titles—are what count for comparison

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Employees may assume that, just because they hold the same job title as another employee, they should receive the same pay. But the label an employer assigns to a job isn’t nearly as important as the job duties performed by the person holding the job.

Recent case:
Addie Stover, who is black, worked as an administrative assistant for a school district. She performed mainly secretarial functions, such as typing and preparing board agendas. When a white man was hired—also with the administrative assistant job title—he was paid considerably more than Stover.

Stover quit and sued, alleging race, sex and pay discrimination. But the school district showed that the man actually performed many nonsecretarial functions, including attending and participating in board meetings.

Plus, he had a master’s degree in school administration, while she held just a bachelor’s degree in English.

Stover could not prove that the white man was similarly situated and was paid more, since his actual job duties were far more complex and extensive than hers. While their titles might have been the same, their actual jobs were clearly very different and that justified the pay differential.

The court tossed out her case. (Stover v. Hattiesburg Public School District, No. 07-60419, 5th Cir., 2009)

Final tip:
If you use the same title for different jobs, consider assigning levels to distinguish them. It may prevent misunderstanding—and needless litigation.

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