Family Dollar agreed to pay $45 million to a class of female store managers who sued the company claiming they had been paid less than male store managers. Earlier this week, a federal court approved the class action settlement. The pay discrimination claims arose under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as well as the Equal Pay Act.
The plaintiffs are represented by Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher & Goldfarb.
The defendant is represented by Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson PA and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
Background about the case
In 2002, nearly 50 female Family Dollar store managers filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These charges alleged that the company had paid them less than similarly situated male store managers.
Plaintiffs then filed their lawsuit in federal court where it was “vigorously litigated” over the next ten years. Among the issues contested were whether the class action could proceed in light of the Supreme Court’s watershed ruling on class action issues in the Walmart v. Dukes case in 2011.
Eventually, the parties reached a settlement agreement in 2017 and the court held a fairness hearing after which it decided to approve the settlement on March 14, 2018.
Relief granted through the settlement agreement
Under the settlement terms, the class of female Family Dollar store managers will receive a total of $45 million dollars. The money will be distributed among the class members through the court-appointed settlement administrator. The attorneys for the class will receive 1/3 of this amount ($15 million) as well as approximately $1 million in litigation expenses.
In addition, Family Dollar is required to, among other things, review its compensation practices related to store managers and to consult with labor economists in doing so.
The interplay of Title VII and EPA in pay discrimination claims
Two of the main federal laws that help ensure female employees are paid the same as their male counterparts are Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act (EPA). Although both statutes cover pay discrimination issues, some significant differences exist that you need to know about since these differences can have a big impact on your case. These variances come into play in traditional gender pay discrimination claims, as well as in glass ceiling discrimination cases.
Although Title VII and the EPA have many similarities, they also have notable distinctions that may affect your potential lawsuit (all of the points below assume the claim is against a private employer):
- Under the EPA, you are not required to file an EEOC Charge of Discrimination before going to court, but you must file a charge for a Title VII pay discrimination claim;
- The time limit for filing a case in court under the EPA is within two years of the discriminatory pay practice (or three years if the violation is willful), whereas a Title VII pay discrimination charge must be filed with the EEOC within 180 or 300 days (depending on what state you live in) of the discriminatory pay practice;
- NOTE I: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act extends the statute of limitations for discriminatory compensation claims by clarifying “that a discriminatory compensation decision . . . occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the [discriminatory decision].” Pub. L. No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5 (2009)
- NOTE II: You are allowed to file an EEOC Charge of Discrimination for an EPA claim as well, but filing a charge with the EEOC does not extend the two-year time frame for filing an EPA lawsuit.
- Unlike the EPA, no requirement exists under Title VII to prove that your job is substantially equal to that of a higher-paid male employee, nor under Title VII must you work in the same establishment as the male comparator;
- In an EPA claim, your employer will have the burden of proof (not just a burden of production like in a Title VII claim) to establish its EPA defense (seniority system, merit system, production-quota system, or any factor other than sex);
- If you prove your employer willfully violated the EPA, you may receive liquidated damages;
- Title VII’s anti-discrimination provisions cover more protected characteristics (race, gender, religion, etc.) than the EPA, which is limited to gender-based differences.
Other helpful resources
- EEOC Compliance Manual Section on Compensation Discrimination: https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/compensation.html
- Questions and Answers: Compliance Manual Section on Compensation Discrimination: https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda-compensation.html
Hiring a proven and effective advocate is critical to obtaining the maximum recovery in an employment discrimination case. Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain. Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve.
Bachman writes frequently on topics related to promotion discrimination, harassment, and other employment discrimination issues at the Glass Ceiling Discrimination Blog, which the ABA Journal recently named a top legal blog.
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