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MN school district settles unequal pay case, but still avoids taking responsibility for violation

We’ve been looking in recent posts at the topic of equal pay protections under both federal and state law. Under the Minnesota law, as we mentioned, employers may not bypass the equal pay requirement by securing agreements with employees to receive a lower wage than other workers who perform essentially equal work. Another important point to mention is that the law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for filing a complaint or for providing testimony in an investigation, proceedings, or a criminal action under the law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently settled a case with the Montevideo School District over allegations that a female custodial aide was underpaid for work that was equal to that of a male custodian. The settlement amounted to $50,000, which will go to the employee. This is what the female would have been paid had she been paid at the same wage rate as her male worker who performed the same kind of work. 

According to the school district, the settlement is not an admission of having violated federal law, but rather based on the district’s recognition that the employee performed work “above and beyond the job description or job classification,” but it is not an admission on its part that the positions were equal. This type of caveat is typical in settlements, and give companies a way to minimize bad press while still putting a legal dispute to rest.

Sources didn’t say whether the custodian would also be pursuing an action under Minnesota’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Law. Those who find themselves in a similar position, though, should work with an experienced attorney to pursue every appropriate legal remedy available.