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PRESS RELEASE
10-1-15

EEOC Sues Prince George’s County for Pay Discrimination

 County Paid Female Engineer Less Than Her Male Colleagues, Federal Agency Charges

BALTIMORE - Prince George's County, Md., violated federal law when it repeatedly paid a female engineer less than her male coworkers because of her gender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

According to EEOC's lawsuit, Joanna Smith had a bachelor's of science degree in civil engineering and more than five years of engineering experience when she was hired for an engineer III position with Prince George's County's Stormwater Management Division. Prior to accepting the position, Smith requested a salary commensurate with her experience and education, but the county hiring official told her she could not negotiate her salary, according to the lawsuit. On March 12, 2012, Smith was hired at the entry-level salary for the engineer III position. EEOC said that two weeks later after Smith was hired, Prince George's County hired a male for another engineer III position, but paid him his requested salary, which was $10,000 more than Smith's starting salary, even though they were performing substantially equal work.

EEOC further charged that in April 2012, the county promoted a male engineer to the engineer III position and paid him more than Smith. In April 2013, the county hired a male engineer for an engineer I position. The county subsequently paid the male engineer I more than Smith, even though he had less experience and lacked a professional license, and Smith performed more complex duties, according to the suit.

Such alleged conduct violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which prohibits discrimination in compensation based on sex. EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process before filing suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division (EEOC v. Prince George's County, Civil Action No. 8:15-cv-02942-RWT).

"In discussions about pay discrimination, some people seek to attribute pay disparities to a woman's occupational choice or an alleged failure to negotiate her salary," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "This case dispels those justifications. Prince George's County refused to allow Ms. Smith to negotiate a higher salary warranted by her experience and education in this scientific field, yet repeatedly and continuously paid male engineers, including less experienced ones, who were doing substantially equal or even less complex work, a higher salary."

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Prohibiting gender-based pay discrim­ination is a priority for the Commission. Paying a woman less than her male colleagues for performing the same core duties is simply unfair and against the law."

Enforcement of equal pay laws and targeting compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on gender is of one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov .