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Female Manager may Proceed with pay Disparity-Gender Discrimination Claim

The concept of equal pay for equal work seems simple to understand and apply. If Jan and Joe have similar education, skills, and experience, and perform similar work, it is reasonable to assume that their pay is also the same. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, even though the Equal Pay Act has been on the books for nearly 50 years. The Seventh Circuit recently dealt with this issue in King v. Acosta Sales & Marketing, Inc.. (11-3617, Mar. 13, 2012). Plaintiff, a sales manager, performed the same duties and responsibilities as her male peers and was highly successful—in fact, more successful than many of them, yet, her salary, both when she started and when she ended her job, was substantially lower than that of her male co-workers. The numbers were shocking disproportional, with the highest paid male sales managers often earning two to three times more than she made.

The female employee filed suit against the employer for gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act. While the district court dismissed the employee's claim, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in reviewing the record and evidence before it concerning what appeared to be pay disparity, concluded that the employee had set forth sufficient information from which a jury should be permitted to determine if there were unlawful gender-based pay policies in place, and in response, that the employer had the right to present evidence to demonstrate why these male employees earned substantially greater salaries than their female counterpart. The case was therefore returned to the district court for trial.

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