11th Circuit Rules in Favor of Employee Asserting Equal Pay Act Violation Claim: An Update from Your Georgia Employment Attorney

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit recently reversed a district court ruling in the case of Edwards v. Fulton County, Georgia, et al., finding that Edwards had a valid claim under the Equal Pay Act, Atlanta employment attorneys report.

The Equal Pay Act is a federal law that prohibits employers from providing different pay rates to employees of the opposite sex who are performing the same type of work. The two job positions that are being compared do not have to be identical, but they must be substantially equal. For example, the job titles may not be congruent, but if the worked performed and the responsibilities administered are substantially similar, then the two positions should be awarded equal compensation.

In this case, Ronald Edwards was employed by Fulton County as a Community Development Specialist beginning in 1994. Fulton County pays salaried employees under a “decision-band” method that classifies all positions according to their job-making authority, complexity, and supervisory responsibilities. Edwards was paid under a C43 classification. However, after a few years in his position, he assumed many responsibilities beyond his pay grade. Regardless of his increased work load, his salary remained at the C43 level. Edwards had complained to his supervisors that his pay did not reflect the caliber of work he was performing, but the county manager declined his request for higher pay.

In 2007, the County hired a female, Carolyn Stewart, as a Community Development Specialist and immediately promoted her to a Community Development Manager. The Community Development Manager position carried similar responsibilities to Edwards’ position, but carried a C52 classification and a higher salary. Edwards filed an Equal Pay Act suit with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. When the court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment, Edwards appealed.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals found that Edwards had established a valid claim under the Equal Pay Act, which requires that an employee prove that his or her employer paid employees of the opposite sex differently for equal work requiring equal skills and responsibilities. The Georgia employment attorneys for Fulton County were unable to show that the disparities between Stewart and Edwards’ pay were based on a factor other than sex. Therefore, Edwards was allowed to proceed with his claim against Fulton County.

Many individuals hesitate to claim the money they deserve because they fear retaliation on the part of their employer. However, it is unlawful for any employer to retaliate against an employee for confronting discriminatory employment practices through filing or participating in an investigation or legal proceeding under the Equal Pay Act. If you believe that your employer has violated the Equal Pay Act or if you are an employer with Equal Pay Act questions, the Georgia employment attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help. Call our offices today for a free case evaluation.

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