On October 24, 2018 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that Denton County Texas will pay $115,000 to a female physician formerly employed by the county. The EEOC filed suit in August 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas alleging that Dr. Martha C. Storrie was paid less than her male counterpart for the same job in violation of the Equal Pay Act. The court entered judgment in favor of the EEOC.
According to the lawsuit, Dr. Storrie worked as Primary Care Clinician in the Denton County Public Health Department beginning in October 2008. The job duties of her position were primarily to provide medical treatment for Denton County residents in clinics operated by the County. In August 2015, Denton County hired a male physician to perform the same duties as she did. However, when the newly hired clinician was brought onboard, the county set his starting annual salary at more than $34,000 higher than hers. Storrie complained to her employer, but the county director of public health refused to alter her pay. Storrie filed a complaint with the EEOC which attempted conciliation which was unsuccessful; the lawsuit followed.
The federal Equal Pay Act makes it unlawful for employers to pay women less than men for a job requiring the same skill, effort and responsibility, performed under similar working conditions. In this case the county argued that the newly hired male physician had more years of experience than Dr. Storrie. It also alleged that she was a problem employee with complaints of lack of professionalism lodged against her.
The final judgment and order also requires Denton County to implement a new written compensation policy regarding the compensation for all new physicians in the public health department. The county is also to provide training on equal pay for women and to post a notice regarding equal pay at its facilities.
Equal Pay discrimination is one of six national enforcement priorities highlighted in the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, accessible at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep-2017.cfm. In addition, many states, including Massachusetts, have recently passed new equal pay laws or amended existing statutes to bolster enforcement efforts.