Friday, February 21, 2014

Equal Pay Act case is revived on appeal

This Equal Pay Act case comes back to life after the Court of Appeals agrees with a pro se plaintiff that she has a claim for unfair treatment because of her gender.

The case is Chepak v. Metropolitan Hospital, a summary order decided on February 13. To win a case under the Equal Pay Act, the plaintiff must show that “(i) the employer pays different wages to employees of the opposite sex; (ii) the employees perform equal work on jobs requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility; and (iii) the jobs are performed under similar working conditions.” Under this legal standard, what does it take for the plaintiff to make out a plausible claim that allows her to take discovery? The Second Circuit (Leval, Calabresi and Lynch) tells us: "Chepak alleged that she was given a different title, but required to do the same job for less pay, as her male predecessors. In light of Chepak’s pro se status, those allegations were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss." 

Plaintiff also sues under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which more broadly gives you the right to sue for sex discrimination. She has a claim under that law as well. The Court of Appeals says, "Chepak’s complaint alleged that she is a woman, that she sought promotion to a status and pay level held by similarly situated males, and was denied. Especially in light of her pro se status, those allegations were sufficient to state a claim."

The district court threw out the case. The case now returns to the district court for discovery. Where did the district court go wrong? According to the Court of Appeals, the trial court "dismissed Chepak’s EPA and Title VII discrimination claims based on the job descriptions submitted by Metropolitan Health." This was wrong, the Court of Appeals says. I'm not sure how the job descriptions fit into the equation. Maybe the employer argued that plaintiff was not comparable to the male workers because she had different job duties. But that won't work on a motion to dismiss. "Whether or not the job descriptions may sometimes be considered on a motion to dismiss, it is clear that the job content and not job title or description is the standard for determining whether there was a violation of the anti-discrimination laws. Even if the job descriptions were properly considered in reviewing defendant’s motion, the job descriptions at most raise issues of fact, and do not, by themselves, provide a basis for dismissing Chepak’s claims."

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