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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Is Pay Secrecy the Enemy?

Posted By Anonymous , Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Is Pay Secrecy the Enemy?

 

Equal pay for women has been a hot topic recently. Equal Pay Day is marked annually (recently in April) and marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. The U.S. women’s soccer team made news by filing a wage discrimination lawsuit against U.S. soccer (addressed in a wonderful LCB entry by Daphne Delvaux). Because this is an election year, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have raised this issue of wage disparity more often. Ivanka Trump even discussed equal pay for women during her speech at the Republican National Convention. The State of California addressed this issue by passing the Fair Pay Act going into effect on January 1, 2016. This law strengthened existing laws by requiring men and women to be paid equally for “substantially similar” work.

 

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that female attorneys at Farmers Insurance filed a class action lawsuit because they were getting paid significantly less than their male counterparts. One female attorney learned a male co-worker was making $185,000 while she was earning $99,000. This was true even though they had the same position and he earned his law license a year later. After facing some retaliation for complaining, this attorney quit and hired San Francisco attorney Lori Andrus to represent her in a lawsuit. Eventually a class action suit was brought on behalf of 300 Farmer’s attorneys with nearly 200 of them current employees.

 

It was learned the greatest disparity at Farmer’s Insurance occurred at higher pay levels where women were much more likely to be in a lower salary grade. This was true regardless of their bar date. Men were being promoted at higher rates “It’s not that women were being demoted,” Andrus said. “But a man would get groomed and promoted. Basically, there is male favoritism, which is probably unintentional. It’s a vestige of the good old boy network.” This matter has settled for $4,000,000. As part of the settlement, Farmers agreed to some reforms. These included increasing the number of women attorneys in its higher salary grades. The settlement also requires Farmer’s to reform its policies, including increasing the number of women attorneys in its higher salary grades.

 

The situation at Farmer’s is far from a unique one. Law firms, corporate offices, and government agencies across California operate in the same manner. These issues are usually swept under the rug or go undiscovered because of pay secrecy policies. There is also a general understanding that employees should not discuss salary with their colleagues. Those with a higher salary are likely aware of it and are going to be less willing to share the information publicly. Legally, employers cannot prevent their employees from discussing salary information. However, this could lead to additional retaliation (as in the Farmer’s case above) if the wage discrepancy issue is then raised with the employer.

 

Leave your opinion in the comments. I’d love to hear what others have to say. Is full disclosure of salary information the answer to pay discrimination? Should salary information be shared among co-workers? 

Tags:  class action  equal pay  Farmer’s Insurance lawsuit  LCB  off the beaten partner track  pay discrimination  pay secrecy  salary retaliation  U.S. Women's Soccer  wage discrepancy 

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Reclaim Your Voice: "Equal Pay For Equal Play"

Posted By Daphne Delvaux, Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Equal Pay For Equal Play

Growing up in Europe, I’m expected to love soccer. It’s part of our culture, on par with bread and cheese, a unifying factor in a divided continent. Sadly, I never cared too much about soccer, or any sport that involves fighting over a ball. Just buy your own ball.  Problem solved.  

 

But then I learned the U.S. National Women’s Team (“USNWT”) is playing offense for equal pay. Ladies, you have my attention! Earlier this year, five members of the USNWT filed an equal pay action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleges that the women earned $2 million for winning the 2015 World Cup, while the men earned $9 million after being eliminated from that same tournament in 2014. The complaint further alleges that both national teams are required to play 20 exhibition games a year; however, a male player who loses all games would make $100,000, while a female player would make $99,000 for winning all “friendlies.” Their concerns are broader than equal pay—other discrepancies include the quality of the stadiums (men always play on grass), and flights to games (women fly coach, men fly business class).

 

We do not know yet how this conflict will end. But to me, they already reached their goal because it’s important for successful women to keep fighting for more. Some say these women may have the most desired jobs in the world. Every day they live their passion. The women have achieved fame and notoriety. Young girls all over the world idolize them. Arguably, they do not desperately “need” more money.

 

“We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer,” two-time Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo said on NBC’s Today show. 

 

This is a reoccurring theme when women fight for equal pay: They are perceived as being “difficult.” I’ve encountered this not only from others, but from myself, “I shouldn’t be difficult . . . because at least I am no longer scavenging vending machines for forgotten change,” and, “I shouldn’t be difficult . . . because maybe I will be perceived as ungrateful.” We need to get over it.

 

The simple truth is that the men’s soccer team is getting more money and better working conditions. The inherently unfair message in pay discrepancy is simple: “Women are inferior to men.” 

 

This is evidenced by U.S. Soccer Federation’s release in response to the complaint: “While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action.” They clearly dropped the ball here. Even though U.S. Soccer did not even bother to read the allegations and has no idea what the basis of the complaint is, they have already concluded that they are disappointed in these women. It’s like giving a red card without observing any foul play. 

 

The EEOC will now conduct an investigation into the claims. As an employment lawyer, I expect the team to pursue their case in U.S. District Court if the EEOC cannot resolve it.

 

When women speak up at the highest levels of professional sports, it creates a ripple effect. We have the ball, let's kick it and win.

Editor's note: The U.S. Women's Soccer Team starts competing in the Rio Olympics this afternoon. As we cheer them on, let's also recommit ourselves to advancing the status of women in the law and society.

This blog was authored by Daphne Delvaux


Tags:  employment law  equal pay  reclaim your voice  soccer 

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