EEOC Files Wage Discrimination Lawsuit Claiming University Paid Female Professor Less than Male Counterpart

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On July 29, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the agency enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – filed a wage discrimination lawsuit that claimed the University of Miami violated federal law by paying a female professor at the school less than a male counterpart for performing equal or similar work, according to a press release from the EEOC.

The EEOC lawsuit claimed that the University of Miami – a private university that is one of the largest employers in Miami-Dade County, Florida – paid a male political science professor more money than a female political science professor even though the two professors were both awarded promotion to full professor on their first attempt at promotion, at the same time, and with similar reviews by faculty.

The female professor at the College of Arts and Sciences was able to confirm what she had suspected – that the university was treating her less favorably than male faculty by paying her less than her male counterpart – through an inadvertently sent email. The EEOC lawsuit claimed the University of Miami violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963.

“Employers often get away with wage discrimination because of the secrecy around employee compensation,” EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg stated in the press release. “In this case, an email confirmed what the professor had already suspected – that she was not being treated equally to her male colleagues. The EEOC will fight vigorously to enforce her rights.”

In May of 2019, the EEOC announced that a Kansas school district agreed to pay $11,250 to settle a wage discrimination lawsuit that claimed a female principal was paid less than male principals for the same job at the same school. This conduct violated the EPA, which prohibits employers from paying women and men unequally for a job with the same required skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), the gender wage gap has narrowed by less than one-half a penny per year in the United States since Congress passed the EPA in 1963. Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that women earned 80 percent of what men earned in 2015. As a result, laws prohibiting employers from asking applicants about salary history have increased in the U.S.

Bans on employers asking about salary history have passed in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Louisville, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. Salary history bans have also passed in the states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

“If new pay is based on previous pay, then gender pay gaps are perpetuated. The goal of equal pay laws is to base compensation on the work performed and not rely on previous pay that may reflect gender discrimination,” explained Attorney Lester Rosen, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of  Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) and the author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’

“When an employer has a background screening firm perform past employment verifications, it is critical that firm knows which cities, counties, and states prohibit such questions, as well as software that facilitates compliance with equal pay laws, or else that employer could be fined,” said Rosen, noting that this trend was chosen by ESR as one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2019.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers employers flexible and customizable employment verifications that provide the salary history of applicants only if permitted by state and local equal pay laws. To learn more about employment verifications from ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Verifications-References/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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