Thursday, July 11, 2013

EEOC Files Charges Against Hotel Alleging Gender-Based Wage Discrimination

Last week this time I was in Missouri, attending my son’s graduation from the Army's basic training program.

The family stayed at Bell’s Extended Stay and Suites in Fort Leonard Wood, which is not to be confused with the Extended Stay Hotels currently being sued by the EEOC on charges of pay discrimination. I must say I’m relieved. For some reason I’d have felt bad about that.

According to the EEOC, the Extended Stay Hotels, which operates nearly seven hundred hotels across the United States and Canada, paid its female employees less than its male employees for performing equal work. Specifically, the EEOC claims that the hotel paid a class of female guest services representatives lower wages than those paid to the male service representatives. The EEOC alleges that the hotel violated both the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 (Title VII).

The EEOC filed the suit after first attempting to settle with the chain through its conciliation process.

The suit stemmed from complaints made by Latoya Weaver, who was hired as a guest services representative at the Extended Stay America hotel in St. Mary's County, Baltimore for $8 an hour. When she quit her job after nearly five years, she was earning $8.88 an hour.

The lawsuit states that Weaver had offered to rescind her resignation if she could get a raise, but the general manager told her no, the hotel was being renovated and couldn’t afford to pay more. But then, lo and behold, two men were hired and paid $10 an hour.

Perhaps Weaver wasn’t that great of an employee and the manager was relieved as all get out when she finally gave her resignation. Perhaps both men had more experience.

Or perhaps this is exactly what it looks like.

The EEOC says that discrimination against other female workers was uncovered during the investigation into Weaver’s case.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence stated, "It is disturbing that even as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the EPA, some employers persist in paying women less than men for equal work simply because of their gender.” She added that the EEOC will take “vigorous action” to “remedy” gender-based wage discrimination.

And I say, good luck with that.

I truly wish the EEOC the best, and if the hotel is proved to have discriminated against its female employees, I hope the employees are made whole and no further harm comes to them.

But gender-based wage discrimination is one of those workplace ills so firmly entrenched in certain cultures, I can almost believe that leadership doesn’t even realize what it’s doing. Almost.

Just today, the Denver Post announced that a University of Denver professor filed charges with the EEOC alleging that Sturm College broke the law by paying her less.

In May a Merck sales representative sued for $100,000,000  claiming that Merck doesn't give women equal opportunities to advance and that it penalizes women who take maternity leave.

And not quite a month later, attorney Francine Griesing and her former employer, law firm Greenberg Traurig, reached a settlement on the $200,000,000 gender discrimination class action case Griesing had filed earlier in December.

And I’ve barely scraped the surface.

The EEOC sure has its work cut out for it, huh?

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