According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of 23 law clerks who had filed a wage discrimination lawsuit against Fulton County. The Court’s ruling affirmed an arbitration ruling that awarded the law clerks at least $4.3 million in back pay. A Superior Court already had affirmed the arbitration ruling on appeal, and Fulton County sought review of the ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, claiming that the award of back pay was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Court of Appeals also remanded the case back to Superior Court so as to allow the law clerks to collect back pay from the date of the arbitration to the present, which amounts to an additional $500,000. As your Georgia employment lawyers can tell you, this ruling is a huge win for the law clerks of Fulton County after six long years of litigation.
The law clerks, all of whom were employed by Fulton County, filed a grievance with the County in 2006 due to the fact that they were being paid about $20,000 per year less than assistant county attorneys, although they were performing comparable jobs with similar duties. The salary disparity arose in 1995, when Fulton County hired a consulting firm to perform a job and pay classification study, which recommended that law clerks and assistant county attorneys be placed in the same pay grade and job classification. Fulton County adopted the consulting firm’s recommendations in 1997.
However, the County also adopted a “premium pay” scheme in order to address situations in which certain job classifications within the County were paid less than similar job classifications within the private sector. Although the study on which the premium pay scheme was based found that both assistant county attorneys and law clerks were compensated at a rate that was 36% less than their private sector counterparts, the County gave only the assistant county attorneys premium pay, and not the law clerks. In 2005, the County discontinued the premium pay scheme, but still continued to pay the assistant county attorneys about $20,000 more per year than the law clerks.
As this case illustrates, the financial repercussions of wage discrimination can be serious, as Fulton County is now facing millions of dollars in back pay that is owed to the plaintiff law clerks in this matter. However, the lengthiness of this litigation also shows how the battle to vindicate one’s right in any type of discrimination lawsuit can take years, be very complex, and be very costly for all parties involved. In any case, experienced Georgia employment lawyers are essential to maintaining any sort of discrimination litigation.
If you have experienced discrimination at your workplace or are experiencing any other type of job-related dispute, contact our office today for a consultation.