The Equal Pay Act And School Liability: How Differences In Teacher Salaries Create Discrimination Risk

Written exclusively for My Community Workplace for Education

Verona Area School District in Wisconsin will pay $450,000 in monetary and other relief to settle a pay discrimination lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the allegations contained in the lawsuit, the school district paid nine female special education teachers and one female school psychologist lower wages than their male counterparts who were hired more recently.

The district allegedly paid the special education teachers $3,000 to $17,000 less per year than a male special education teacher, even though all nine female teachers had more experience. The district also allegedly paid the female school psychologist at least $16,000 less per year than a male school psychologist.

According to the EEOC, the school district "outright rejected the special education teachers' and school psychologist's requests to raise their salaries to match those of their recently hired, more highly paid male co-workers."

However, the school district allegedly negotiated with male teachers who were paid less than newly hired, less experience teachers on several occasions and agreed to their requests for pay increases.

The EEOC charged the school district with violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by discriminating in pay based on sex.

The four-year consent decree settling the suit requires the school district to raise the salaries of the female employees named in the suit. The district must also "review its pay policy, conduct anti-discrimination training, post a notice to employees at its worksites about the lawsuit, and submit written reports twice a year to the EEOC." "Verona Area School District Settles EEOC Equal Pay Lawsuit" (Jun. 16, 2023).


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Under the Equal Pay Act, jobs that "require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility" and are "performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment" are considered "equal work" and require "equal pay." 

The jobs do not need to be identical but must be "substantially equal" in overall job content. Therefore, even positions with different job titles could constitute equal work under the law.

"Equal pay" includes all forms of compensation, such as "salary, overtime pay, bonuses, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits."

If women and men performing equal work are receiving unequal pay, the lower-paid employee must receive an increase in pay. DOL "Equal Pay for Equal Work"

To make sure your school district is providing equal pay for equal work, regular pay audits are essential.

Here are some additional tips to prevent pay discrimination in your school district:

·      Establish an EEO policy that reflects your intention to pay employees fairly.

·      Audit compensation levels of your employees to make certain that employees are paid fairly.

·      Remember to include bonuses, health care, paid time off, and other forms of compensation outside of the employee's pay rate in your audit.

·      If compensation is tied to evaluations, have procedures in place to make sure that evaluations are performed fairly.

·      Establish an internal procedure for employees to discuss compensation, including bonuses, without fear of retaliation.

·      Investigate promptly and fairly any claim of unequal pay.


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