Company Refused to Pay Female Employee What It Paid Her Male Predecessor, Federal Agency Charges
MINNEAPOLIS - Royal Tire, Inc., a transportation company with commercial and retail locations throughout the Midwest, violated federal law by paying an employee less because of her gender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday.
The EEOC said Royal Tire failed to pay Christine Fellman-Wolf the same salary that it paid her male predecessor as human resources director at its St. Cloud, Minn., headquarters, even though Fellman-Wolf's duties were at least equal to her predecessor's and being performed under similar working conditions.
According to John Rowe, director of EEOC's Chicago District, which includes Minnesota, the agency's investigation revealed that starting in January 2008, Director of Human Resources Stuart Reif left his job and was replaced by Fellman-Wolf, a human resources assistant who was promoted into the position. Fellman-Wolf had extensive experience in management and human resources, but was paid approximately $35,000 less than Reif had been paid, and less than the minimum salary for the position according to Royal Tire's internal guidelines. Although Fellman-Wolf received regular raises until she left in July 2011, her salary never reached what Reif had been paid at the time of his termination.
Denying a female employee equal pay for work which is at least equal to a male employee's in skill, effort, and responsibility, and which is performed under the same or similar working conditions, violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for Fellman-Wolf, an order barring future discrimination, and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Royal Tire, Inc., (Civil Action No. 13-cv-1516), was filed June 20, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and assigned to Judge John R. Tunheim.
"Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act," said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson. "The time has long since passed for women to earn less money for doing the same work as their male counterparts. Unfortunately, it appears that not all employers have gotten the message that Congress stated 50 years ago."
According to its website, "since 1948, Royal Tire has been providing customers with quality transportation care, products, and services. Headquartered in St. Cloud, Royal Tire, Inc. is a family- owned and operated company that has full service commercial and retail locations throughout the Upper Midwest. Royal Tire currently employs over 300 people."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The case will be litigated by attorneys in the Minneapolis Area Office.
Enforcing equal pay laws and targeting compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on gender, is of one of six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.