A Roanoke federal jury found that Virginia Tech discriminated against two women in its development office by paying them less than their male counterparts, violating the Equal Pay Act. The jury, composed of five women and two men, awarded plaintiff Shana Maron $25,000 and Getra Hanes $15,000, which represents the difference between their salaries and that of their male counterparts for the two years preceding the filing of their suit. Another $61,000 was awarded to Maron as compensation for Virginia Tech’s retaliation against her for complaining about the wage disparity.
R. Scott Oswald and Nicholas Woodfield, principal attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm, represent Maron and Hanes. Mr. Woodfield argued during the trial that if Virginia Tech “had good policies, we wouldn’t be here.” He said, “If you want good employees, you need to be a good employer first.” Mr. Woodfield is seeking to double the amount of backpay that was awarded to his clients since liquidated damages are authorized under the Equal Pay Act unless Virginia Tech can show it acted in good faith to follow the law.
Under the Equal Pay Act, employers are prohibited from paying women less than men for equal work, the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions. Maron was an assistant director in the development office at Virginia Tech and Hanes was a regional director of major gifts. Maron said she was offered a salary of $48,000 a year for a job previously held by a man who earned $68,500. Maron also stated that Robert Bailey, Senior Director of Regional Major Gifts for Virginia Tech, told her she should receive less pay because she was not the head of her household.
In addition, Judge James C. Turk of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia identified other events that tend to show Virginia Tech’s animus toward women when he previously denied Virginia Tech’s motion for summary judgment, stating:
Plaintiffs presented evidence that Robert Bailey, Senior Director of Regional Major Gifts for Virginia Tech, allegedly told [Maron] that as a woman, and not the head of her household, she was not worth the same as the man who held the position at the time. In the same conversation, [Maron] stated that Bailey also told her that hiring a woman can be a liability and waste of space because women could become pregnant and miss work. Bailey also admitted that he might have told [Maron] that if she repeated any of those statements, he might “slap her with a ‘wet noodle,’” a phrase with arguable phallic subtext. Further, Plaintiffs allege that Virginia Tech required [Maron] to achieve certain mandatory benchmarks to receive a promotion that her male counterparts were not required to achieve.
After the jury reached its verdict in favor of Maron and Hanes, Mr. Woodfield stated, “We’re pleased we finally managed to resolve this, and my clients can close this chapter.”
The suit is Maron et al. v. Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, case number 7:08-cv-00579, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.