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EEOC settles with firm who paid female HR exec less


A Minnesota tire company has reached an $182,500 settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which it was charged with underpaying its female human resources director.

The EEOC said when Christine Fellman-Wolf became human resource director at St. Cloud, Minnesota-based Royal Tire Inc. in January 2008, she was paid $35,000 less per year than her male predecessor, and $19,000 less than the minimum salary for the position under Royal Tire’s own compensation system.

Although Ms. Fellman-Wolf complained about the disparity and asked to be compensated fairly, the commercial and retail tire company did not make up the difference, the EEOC said in its statement.

The EEOC charged the company with violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under terms of the settlement, in addition to the $182,500 award to Ms. Fellman-Wolf, the EEOC said the company must comply with a three-year consent decree, which includes an injunction prohibiting the company from any future discrimination based on sex; paying men and women different wages for doing equal work; and retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under federal law, among other provisions.

Trial attorney Jessica Palmer-Denig, who handled the litigation for the EEOC, said in a statement, “Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental civil right, and the (Equal Pay Act) is a strict statute.

“Employers should carefully examine the actual job duties of their employees, not just employee or job titles, to determine if wages are really equal. If a pay disparity exists between men and women doing the same work, the employer is well-advised to raise the salary of the lower-paid employees immediately.”

A company spokesman could not be reached for comment.