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Court reinstates EEOC pay suit against insurance regulator

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A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated an Equal Pay Act lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Maryland’s insurance regulator on the basis male employees were paid more than women, in a divided opinion.

The dissenting opinion said state workforces are not “hotbeds of gender bias.”

The EEOC had filed suit against the Maryland Insurance Administration, charging three female employees in its fraud investigation division had been paid less than comparable male employees in violation of the EPA, according to Friday’s ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, in U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Maryland Insurance Administration.

The U.S. District Court in Baltimore dismissed the cases stating the claimants had not met their prima facie evidentiary burden. In reinstating the case, the majority opinion said the insurance administration argues the EEOC failed to identify valid comparators with the three women.

But, said the ruling, “The fact that other male employees at (Maryland Insurance Administration) performed substantially identical work but made less money than the claimants does not require us to reach a different conclusion.

“An EPA plaintiff is not required to demonstrate that males, as a class, are paid higher wages than females, as a class, but only that there is discrimination in pay against an employee with respect to one employee of the opposite sex,” said the ruling, in holding the EEOC had established a prima facie case of wage discrimination under the EPA, and remanding the case for further proceedings.

The dissenting opinion said the majority “refuses to so much as mention a state’s sovereign interest in its own civil service.”

“The EEOC shouldn’t be able to bring a case as marginal as this one against a state. State workforces are highly regulated and regimented, and state law provides remedies for gender discrimination in all its forms. Simply put, state civil service systems are not hotbeds of gender bias, as this feeble suit makes all too clear,” said the dissent.