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Alabama women suing for equal pay lack state protection

Amy Heatherly believes she would have been paid at least $50,000 more to do her job over the past five years if she had been a man.

Posted: Apr 2, 2018 1:57 AM

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Amy Heatherly believes she would have been paid at least $50,000 more to do her job over the past five years if she had been a man.


As the only female human resources director overseeing compensation at the University of Alabama's main campus, Heatherly said she knew for years she was getting paid less than three men on a similar management level with fewer years of experience.

She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2014, after receiving a raise that was half of her male colleagues'. In 2016, she sued the university.

"It did not have as much to do with the money but me feeling like I'm paid my worth, or at least paid equitably, like you're being respected and recognized for what you do," said Heatherly, 52, who has worked at the university for 19 years.

The university argues differences in pay are justified because her position is not comparable to her male colleagues. Heatherly says that she is a victim of gender discrimination because she's not receiving equal pay for equal work.

White women in Alabama make 72 cents to a white man's dollar. Black women make 57 and Latinas 47, the National Women's Law Center calculated.

Federal law prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex for equal work, except where there is a difference in experience or productivity. Alabama and Mississippi are the only two states that don't have equal pay laws.

Rep. Adline Clarke, a Democrat from Mobile, unsuccessfully pushed lawmakers to approve equal pay legislation. Clarke's bill, which failed this legislative session, mirrored federal law but tasked the Alabama Department of Labor with enforcement. She said that would hold employers more accountable.

Lilly Ledbetter, the Alabama woman who lost a lawsuit over being paid less than her male counterparts, is the namesake of the law signed by former President Barack Obama to make it easier for women to sue over wage discrimination. She said people wrongly think that pay discrimination does not exist.

"It seems like they all have blinders on," Ledbetter told the Associated Press. "The corporate world in some regards feels that equal pay for equal work is a myth. They think we have it."

The university said in court filings that it explained Heatherly's low raise was because of how she handled an employee complaint and software problems. Heatherly said they never talked with her about disciplinary problems at the time and gave her no performance evaluation.

Heatherly's complaint said that when she sued, she and her three male colleagues all had the title of director, each with unique responsibilities.

"She's the only person in the job, so then can she never be a victim of sex discrimination because there's no comparator?" said Heatherly's attorney Charles Guerrier, who worked for the EEOC for three decades. "If you segregate the jobs and underpay the women, you can't violate law because there are no men doing the same jobs."

The university counters in court filings that Heatherly's role was not comparable because it wasn't systemwide and had different responsibilities.

The university uses a pay grade system that tallies salaries based on the differentials. A statistical analysis by Heatherly's economic expert reported she was paid less than 19 out of 20 men in her pay grade. The expert calculated the university paid female administrators between 5 to 14 percent less.

The university's expert responded that the analysis was "flawed" because jobs can't be compared within the same pay grade. The university said doing so is "ignoring legitimate factors that drive compensation," like type of work and job performance.

Monica Watts, the university's associate vice president for communications, said the university could not answer questions or comment on the ongoing case. In response to an open records request for documentation of equal pay complaints, lawsuits and settlements, the university said they have "no responsive public documents that compile the information."

Federal court records show two University of Alabama at Birmingham professors sued over unequal pay in 2006. One settled and one left the university, according to their attorney.

Heatherly said the lawsuit has dashed her dreams of a promotion. She is her family's breadwinner, currently earning more than her husband at $131,000 a year.

"There are days when I wonder, why do I keep helping a place that's done this to me?" she said, wiping at tears. "If I can help to make it better for other females, and I know I can't change the world, but if I do that I'll feel like I've had an impact."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 350070

Reported Deaths: 7590
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24512449
DeSoto23513283
Harrison21172335
Rankin15798293
Jackson15735254
Madison11171227
Lee10903180
Jones9223169
Forrest9027163
Lauderdale8087244
Lamar724890
Lowndes7199152
Lafayette6631125
Washington5661140
Pearl River5357154
Oktibbeha503198
Bolivar5004134
Warren4817128
Panola4812112
Marshall4739106
Pontotoc452473
Hancock440388
Neshoba4401181
Union438979
Monroe4369138
Lincoln4228116
Pike3739114
Leflore3676125
Alcorn355374
Tate354988
Sunflower351094
Adams347490
Scott346677
Yazoo342977
Copiah330869
Simpson327191
Itawamba317281
Coahoma315685
Tippah312869
Prentiss302563
Covington302384
Marion289882
Leake288676
Wayne280945
George277351
Grenada272188
Newton266864
Tishomingo240770
Winston238084
Stone235338
Jasper234748
Attala228674
Chickasaw221460
Holmes202574
Clay201954
Clarke189580
Tallahatchie185642
Calhoun183232
Smith183036
Yalobusha173641
Walthall150449
Lawrence145426
Greene141935
Amite139144
Noxubee137235
Perry136138
Montgomery133944
Carroll127031
Webster124332
Jefferson Davis119834
Tunica116127
Benton107825
Claiborne105931
Kemper104429
Humphreys102333
Franklin88424
Quitman86319
Choctaw83119
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson72228
Sharkey51918
Issaquena1746
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 592417

Reported Deaths: 11542
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson861091591
Mobile49771865
Madison37714533
Shelby27501259
Tuscaloosa27344465
Montgomery26343628
Baldwin25860329
Lee17336181
Calhoun15498334
Morgan15225291
Etowah15060370
Marshall13198236
Houston12191293
Elmore10977219
St. Clair10852252
Limestone10816158
Cullman10610206
Lauderdale10305254
DeKalb9594192
Talladega9005188
Walker7840288
Autauga7615114
Jackson7431117
Blount7417139
Colbert6752142
Coffee6443132
Dale5723117
Russell482243
Chilton4810117
Covington4804125
Franklin462781
Tallapoosa4571156
Escambia451083
Chambers3987125
Dallas3751163
Clarke372263
Marion3470107
Pike334079
Lawrence3277100
Winston300773
Bibb292865
Geneva288383
Marengo262967
Barbour253761
Pickens247762
Butler242472
Hale236778
Fayette228165
Henry216545
Monroe204541
Randolph202844
Cherokee200748
Washington186839
Macon171552
Crenshaw170658
Clay167159
Cleburne161845
Lamar151938
Lowndes146255
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa119529
Perry111228
Sumter110633
Greene99337
Choctaw64425
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