Equal Pay Act Upheld in 4th Circuit Decision

Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of Equal Pay Act claims made by The Noble Law’s client Tracy Sempowich, represented by partner Katie Abernethy. A lower court had ruled that Sempowich’s claims were not valid, because even though her salary was lower than a male coworker, she had earned more commission than him and had a higher total compensation.

Joined by the EEOC, Katie argued that this was a misreading of the Equal Pay Act, which forbids employers from paying a female employee doing equal work as a male employee at a lower rate. The court agreed, noting that if total compensation was the determining factor, an employer could pay a woman half as much as a man and require her to work twice as long to make the same amount.

In their article analyzing the decision, Bloomberg Law reports the Fourth Circuit also “revived Sempowich’s Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act sex discrimination and retaliation claims based on her reassignment to a different position without direct reports.”

Following the decision, Katie commented, “We are delighted that the Fourth Circuit upheld the rule of law in finding for our client, Ms. Sempowich. We believe that the Fourth Circuit properly applied the standard set out in the Equal Pay Act ensuring that employers provide employees with “equal pay for equal work.” We are also pleased with the Fourth Circuit’s reiteration of the appropriate standards for summary judgment in Title VII cases, which should only be applied in cases where there are no material factual disputes and not in a way that unfairly denies employees their constitutional right to a jury trial.”

Already, legal analysts posit that the ruling may have an effect on another newsworthy case moving through the courts, where the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is contesting similar claims.

The Noble Law is proud to see all the time and work Katie, her team, and her client have invested in this matter end in a positive outcome. For additional analysis of the case and the long-term effects on the Equal Pay Act, you can read the Reuters summary of the decision here. If you or someone you know are dealing with an employment law matter, we encourage you to reach out to us and schedule a consultation.

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