BALTIMORE - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced a $45,000 settlement of a lawsuit against the Baltimore Cable Access Corporation (BCAC), an operator of public access cable television, for firing a female manager after she complained about sex-based wage discrimination.
A Consent Decree between the EEOC and BCAC, which resolved the suit, was approved on April 25 by U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake of the District of Maryland. The suit charged BCAC with violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by terminating its first executive director, Karen E. Simmons-Beathea, in retaliation for her complaints that she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts in the industry and then compensating her male successor at a far higher salary for performing the same job.
"While most employers understand that women are entitled to equal pay for equal work, some bad actors continue to shortchange working women simply because of their gender -- which is unacceptable and unlawful," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "Female employees are still undervalued in the 21st century workforce, as evidenced not only by this case but by the thousands of other wage bias charges filed with the Commission every year."
In fiscal year (FY) 1999, the EEOC received approximately 3,800 wage-related charges filed by women, accounting for about 5% of all discrimination charges filed with the agency. Since FY 1992, the Commission has obtained a cumulative total of nearly $100 million through its enforcement and litigation efforts for all charging parties alleging wage bias.
Ms. Simmons-Beathea was fired by BCAC in November 1996. Although the company alleged that her termination was due to an internal reorganization, the action occurred one month after she presented a study to BCAC's Board which pointed out the tremendous disparity between her salary and the much higher salaries of male executive directors in other markets which operate community-based cable television. Almost immediately after the termination, a male with less experience replaced her as executive director with a 20% higher salary.
"This is the second EEOC settlement announced this week involving stark examples of women in higher level jobs being grossly underpaid compared to men in similar positions," said EEOC General Counsel C. Gregory Stewart. "The EEOC will hold employers accountable for such discriminatory conduct, as well as for retaliating against female employees who speak out against sex-based wage bias."
Yesterday, the EEOC's Detroit office announced a $100,000 settlement of a wage discrimination case involving a female professor at Eastern Michigan University who was paid substantially less than her males colleagues for the better part of a decade.
"It is important for workers to know not only that they have the right to equal pay, but also the right to come forward and complain of discrimination without jeopardizing their employment," said EEOC's Baltimore Regional Attorney Gerald S. Kiel. "Hopefully, more workers will come to understand and assert their rights under the law as a result of these settlements."
The BCAC case is the second recent equal pay settlement by the Baltimore office. In August 1999, it reached a $200,000 voluntary settlement in an equal pay suit against R.E. Michel Co. (a major heating, ventilation, and air conditioning wholesaler) on behalf of Sharon Long, a purchasing agent who was paid less than half of the salary of her male colleagues. The case was featured at a White House event on the President's Equal Pay Initiative on January 24, 2000.
Employees and applicants in Maryland who are subjected to a discriminatory employment practice are encouraged to contact the EEOC's Baltimore District Office. The office, open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., can be contacted by phone at (410) 962-3835, or in person or by mail at 10 South Howard Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21201.
In addition to enforcing the Equal Pay Act, which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the ADEA, which protects workers 40 years of age and older; the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting persons with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on April 28, 2000.
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