Judge James C. Turk of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied Virginia Tech’s motion for summary judgment where The Employment Law Group® clients – Shana Kennedy, Erin Hofberg, and Getra Hanes – allege Virginia Tech unfairly paid female employees less than their male counterparts. Accordingly the case is going to trial in April of 2011. The court held that a jury could find that the pay difference was, at least in part, motivated by gender, stating:
Plaintiffs presented evidence that Robert Bailey, Senior Director of Regional Major Gifts for Virginia Tech, allegedly told Kennedy 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, Kennedy 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 Kennedy 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 Kennedy to achieve certain mandatory benchmarks to receive a promotion that her male counterparts were not required to achieve.
Applying the Burlington Northern standard which defines an action to be materially adverse if it could well dissuade a reasonable employee from reporting illegal conduct, the court also ruled that a jury could find Virginia Tech unlawfully retaliated against Kennedy.
Kennedy claims in her deposition that she suffered adverse employment actions in that Virginia Tech unnecessarily reprimanded her by changing her agreed performance criteria without notice, required her to meet objectively impossible benchmarks, denied her important training opportunities, and insisted that she provide copies of business trip receipts when Virginia Tech lost the originals. During this time period, Kennedy alleges she was ill and requested additional time for compliance, but Virginia Tech rebuffed her. In light of this sworn testimony, the Court cannot conclude, as a matter of law, that a reasonable jury could not find that Kennedy suffered an adverse action.
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. For more information about Equal Pay Act and other federal anti-discrimination laws, click here.