Last week a federal jury awarded $1.2 million to 12 female teachers who had sued their employer, the Elizabeth Forward School District, for discriminating against them on the basis of sex and age. The jury agreed that the plaintiffs were hired at the lowest pay grade even though they had experience from other school districts, resulting in a salary discrepancy between the plaintiffs and other comparably experienced teachers who were younger and/or male.
This was not a Title IX case; instead they chose to pursuing relief under the other federal statutes that address discrimination in the particular context of employment, including the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. They also sued under Pennsylvania's general antidiscrimination law. Last year, the District lost its effort to dismiss plaintiffs' case on summary judgment. It had argued that younger and/or male teachers were offered hiring starting salaries because they "filled a particular need," but the court noted that the District couldn't back up this generalized explanation with any specific examples of hiring decisions in which "need" was used to justify a higher salary. That district court decision paved the way for jury trial, which resulted in the $1.2 million verdict.
There's no word yet on whether the district will appeal. But it has not had much success doing so in the past. A jury awarded a $204,000 verdict in a similar case in 2005, and the district's appeal was unsuccessful. The district ended up paying about $666,000 to the plaintiffs once attorneys fees and costs were added in.
Case is: Defurio v. Elizabeth Forward School Dist., No. 05-1227 (W.D. Pa.).
Summary judgment decision is at 2007 WL 2752176 (Sept. 19, 2007).