A federal jury recently awarded $13 million to a former shipping supervisor who claimed that she faced six years of gender discrimination and harassment at Hunter Panels, a construction material supplier. According to the lawsuit, the employee was regularly ridiculed by fellow employees for being a woman. She made several complaints about the harassment to her supervisors, but they failed to respond. One supervisor allegedly dismissed her claims by saying that she was “losing her mind” and “throwing fits.”
In addition to being subjected to discriminatory behavior, she was paid less than her male predecessor, despite the fact that she had years of experience as a supply specialist from working in the Air Force.
After the company fired her for her “job performance and ‘management style,’” the employee decided to file a lawsuit, claiming that she had been discriminated against, subjected to a hostile work environment, and retaliated against by the company. The jurors awarded her $13 million in punitive damages and pay.
What the law says about equal pay
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires employers to pay men and women equal compensation for equal work. In order for the EPA to apply, the jobs held by males and females do not necessarily need to be identical, but must be similar in terms of content. The law covers all forms of compensation, including salary, bonuses, overtime, profit sharing, stock options, vacation pay, accommodations, life insurance, and benefits.
Individuals who allege an EPA violation do not have to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) beforehand, but can proceed directly with a lawsuit in federal court. The time limit for commencing a lawsuit is within two years of an unlawful wage violation or within three years of a willful violation.
What to do if your employer gives a pretext for firing you
An employer that takes an adverse employment action against an employee for unlawful reasons will often have a pretext for its behavior. It may, for example, falsely claim that the employee was fired because he or she was given bad performance reviews.
If your employer states a false reason for its actions, you must prove that the reason is a pretext. There are a number of ways to do this, including:
In addition to a claim under the EPA, you may have a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, under New York State Executive Law or under the New York City Human Rights Law.
Discrimination based on gender or disparate treatment among male and female employees is also prohibited by Title VII and New York State and City Human Rights Laws. An employer may not treat female employees differently than male employees or take any adverse employment action against the females solely due to their gender.
Contact the Akin Law Group for legal help
If you believe that your employer illegally discriminated against you, call the Akin Law Group at 866.685.5163 to schedule a free consultation. Our lawyers will examine the details of your case to help you determine what to do next.