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EEOC: Salary disparities ranging from $3K to $17K showed gender bias

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A Wisconsin school district has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle claims it paid female employees less than their male counterparts, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Friday.

Verona Area School District paid nine female special education teachers and one female school psychologist less than more recently hired male employees for the same work, EEOC said. Each had comparable or greater experience than a male colleague but was paid $3,000 to $17,000 less.

Additionally, while the female employees’ repeated requests for raises were denied, the district repeatedly negotiated and agreed to salary increases sought by male teachers, EEOC said.

The commission sued, alleging the district had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. To settle the lawsuit, the district agreed to the monetary relief and agreed to raise the salaries of the women involved. It also will review its pay policy, conduct anti-discrimination training and post a notice about the lawsuit, according to the EEOC’s announcement.

“More than 60 years after the Equal Pay Act, it is not only illegal but unacceptable to treat men and women differently when negotiating and setting pay,” said Diane Smason, EEOC’s acting district director in Chicago, in a statement. “The EEOC will continue to vigorously investigate and enforce the law to make sure employees do not face such discrimination.”

The school district’s board of education president, Meredith Stier Christensen, told HR Dive in a statement that the parties worked together to resolve the dispute without going to trial. Additionally, the board in 2021 adopted a new governance model that included the creation of clear, formalized systems to ensure that lawful and equitable hiring and compensation practices are in place, Stier Christensen continued. “As a result of our robust oversight practices, the Board has full confidence that our administration’s proactive steps to achieve this critical outcome have been successful.”

Vice President Jennifer Murphy concurred: “We now have systems in place to effectively eliminate the type of concern raised in the EEOC complaint now and in the future.”

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