HR Official Wins Own EEOC Equal Pay Case.

Memo to the CEO: When it comes to pay parity, don’t mess with a human-resources pro, because it could get even messier in court.

Maybe Amtrak should have taken that advice when paying human-resources director Sheila Davidson, now director of workforce development at Amtrak.

A federal court in Philadelphia approved a consent decree requiring Amtrak to pay Davidson $171,483 in back compensation, damages, and attorney’s fees.

Amtrak also agreed to boost Davidson’s annual salary by $16,505.

HR people “are aware of their rights,” said Philip Kovnat, the attorney who handled the case for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the decree, approved by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, Amtrak denies discriminating against Davidson and retaliating against her after she complained.

Calls and e-mails to Amtrak’s attorney in this case were not returned. An Amtrak spokeswoman declined to comment.

That a gender pay gap exists between men and women is well-known. In 2010, women earned an average weekly salary of $669, while men earned $824 – a 23 percent difference – according to a recent report from the U.S. Labor Department.

But proving that gap in an average workplace is difficult. Many employees have no idea what their colleagues in the next office earn.

Not Sheila Davidson.

“She knew exactly what everyone was making in the company,” Kovnat said. He said it was not uncommon for human-resources people to file EEOC complaints.

Davidson’s issues began in 2007 when Amtrak changed its corporate structure. In 2000, eight years after Amtrak hired her, Davidson became responsible for human resources in one region. A male colleague handled the neighboring area.

Her region had been larger, but the two were paid the same, Kovnat said, because pay was based on job title, not the number of personnel for which each was responsible.

After layoffs, attrition, and other downsizings, positions were reshuffled. Davidson moved into her current job – director of workforce development – and her male colleague became responsible for his territory and hers.

It sounds like a bigger job, but the joined territory had fewer people in it than hers did at its height, she said.

Even so, the lawsuit said, he got a raise – a significant one.

The raise in the settlement puts her on par with her colleague. She’ll earn $116,439 a year, up from $99,934.

Kovnat said Davidson tried to resolve the issue internally, and when that didn’t work she went to the EEOC – and she knew exactly how to do it. Davidson, a human-resources professional with 25 years’ experience, had handled EEOC discrimination complaints for Amtrak for eight years.

As part of the decree, three top Amtrak executives will have to spend four hours in training on complying with federal antidiscrimination laws on pay and retaliation.

After she turned to the EEOC, Davidson “has been very much ostracized and excluded and there was a general atmosphere where she was seen as a pariah,” the EEOC attorney said.

The lawsuit, filed in February, said she was excluded from senior staff meetings.

Source:  Jane M. Von Bergen,



Posted on November 11, 2011, in Employee Relations and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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