Claims She Was Paid Less, Why Did Her Bias Claim Fail
Posted: November 28, 2023
She said she was the only female doing the job and that males were paid more. So why did her wage bias claim fall flat?
A federal appeals court affirmed a lower court's ruling against a female employee who raised a list of claims against her former employer, including wage discrimination, hostile work environment, constructive discharge and retaliation.
The plaintiff was Carina Gonzalez, who was a field technician for Englewood Lock and Safe from October 2017 through December 2018.
Several claims raised
In addition to alleging that she was paid less than male colleagues with comparable experience, Gonzalez said that she had to "beg" a colleague for an oil change for her company vehicle. She also complained that a male co-worker said "she would be a better man than him if she made it into fieldwork within six months."
To support her assertion of a hostile environment, she said a female colleague once "touch[ed] Ms. Gonzalez's butt with [a] part sleeve" and asked her whether she watches porn.
She said things got so bad that she was forced to resign, adding that the employer retaliated against her by withholding money from her last paycheck and then harassing her by billing her for work items.
No reasonable jury...
At the trial court, the employer asked the court to take the matter out of a jury's hands by granting it judgment as a matter of law. In other words, it told the trial judge no reasonable jury could find in Gonzalez's favor based on all the evidence that was presented.
The trial judge agreed and issued a ruling for the employer.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court's ruling in Gonzalez v. Englewood Lock and Safe.
Gonzalez said she was unfairly paid less than her male colleagues, but there was a fatal flaw in that assertion: Gonzalez, who filed her case without a lawyer, did not produce evidence relating to the pay that those male colleagues received.
The appeals court also let stand that trial judge's determination that even if there was a pay disparity, there was no proof that the disparity was illegally based on sex.
Gonzalez was in fact given the opportunity to perform field work and received a significant raise as a result, the court said.
Got what she wanted
The court similarly noted Ms. Gonzalez's testimony that she wanted to work on safes and that she perceived the opportunity she was given to work on a safe as an attempt to placate her. The court concluded Ms. Gonzalez's own testimony was "objective evidence" that she was afforded that opportunity.
On her hostile work environment claim, the appeals court said there just was not enough evidence for a jury to say that the harassment she allegedly suffered was based on her sex.
To support her claim that things were so bad that she had to resign, Gonzalez said she was forced to serve a "customer with evident severe mental illness." But another technician always accompanied her on those calls, and she did not otherwise show that things became objectively unbearable at work.
Finally, the appeals court agreed that the retaliation claim lacked merit. The record showed that the employer invoiced her for work items she did not return, and in any event there was nothing indicating that the invoice was sent in response to protected activity.
Posted In: Discrimination, Illegal; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
Want to know more? Read the full article by Tom D'Agostino at HR Morning