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Gender Discrimination or not? Pennsylvania

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  • Gender Discrimination or not? Pennsylvania

    In February of 2015, I helped start a company with a gentleman. He'd approached me that he'd buy everything and I'd run the business.(in a nutshell)
    I agreed and was the general manager with the promise of wealth, insurance, a vehicle and (profit sharing "when we reach a certain point"). My fiance came aboard as cfo/h.r. and worked for six months with no pay.
    I was salaried at 40k/yr. At 10 weeks we were cash flow break even. I went to $50k in October with the promise again of profit sharing a car, insurance and a much larger raise. My fiance and I also work seven days a week.
    Since our official opening in May of 2015, the company is now 35 employees, a fleet of eleven vehicles and $325k/mo in sales.
    Knowing that a growing business requires dedication, sacrifice and time, everytime I asked about the raise and vehicle, I was pushed off with one excuse or another...we're growing, I'm hiring others now, I'd have to let someone go and can't afford it, taxes are coming...always something. One thing this owner did that I had no say in was the hiring. I had moderate input during any interview and was never privy to wage information.
    As it turns out, some of the guys in the shop make more than me before any overtime. I knew it was hard work so I overlooked it. Another manager who was hired (to work for me) in May with no experience in the industry at all was hired at $85k/yr and two weeks after he started he was given a week off paid vacation plus an extra $1k every six months because he didn't need benefits. We have another female in the office who has six yrs experience and another male was hired to work doing the same job as her after she trained him since he only had three mos experience and he's making $5/hr more than she is.
    When I ask why this is happening, I'm given the runaround. He finally have the female a $2/ hr increase.
    I've still gotten no raise after numerous promises. At one point, the owner even cut my fiance's wage in half and told me that he'd give me the other "half"as a raise since he viewed us as a "package".
    I explained that I have my own worth as an employee as does my fiance. I never saw the other half. I've not taken any vacation and only missed six days...literally leaving from work to go to the hospital and upon discharge five days later, straight back to work from the hospital, not home.
    Three weeks ago, I refused to make a change on our calendar for a client who was asking for special treatment. I felt it was poor business judgement and of bad morals to bump a good client for one who abuses the system. He told me to do it and I refused to do so. I said if he didn't like it, he could fire me so he did.
    Was I foolish over the past year for believing him? Yes, but I truly wanted what was best for the company and my employees. I feel that my caring was used against me.
    I'm looking for opinions with regard to my situation.

  • #2
    If it's not too late, your fiancÚ should make a wage claim for the unpaid 6 months of pay due him if it was never paid later.

    It's hard to know otherwise because there are many reasons for wages/benefits given to any employee. It is possible that the out of industry manager had more experience/education/knowledge than you and while hired beneath you would have eventually been promoted over you due to that. And to get him, the boss had to pay him more.

    In the beginning you accepted a rather low wage it seems. It can be hard to get more later. At some point, you accepted a lot of excuses for not being increased. And you made some choices on hopes. It would have been better in hindsight to get promises in writing in a contract. Because otherwise, little rises to the level of a contract.

    There is a phenomena in compensation that people who come in later generally make more than those that stay. We used to laugh at one of the big three HR consulting firms that we should leave and come back and then we would make more...and some did. There is some value to having experience with other companies/employers. So that could be playing into this too.

    Yes, he can fire you for insubordination. He is the boss and unless he is doing something illegal (that you have reported to the proper authorities), he can terminate you for not doing what he stated. It wasn't your call to refuse. That alone might ruin your gender discrimination case. Your best bet is a gender PAY discrimination case, but again, without seeing ALL the data (files, compensation rates, etc), it's very hard to know.

    I am not so sure it has to do with your gender and all your employer would need to prove is that there were other reasons.


    • #3
      More info

      Thanks for the quick response.
      With regard to the mgr who was hired. He previously worked for our landlord as the handyman. No more experience, or education than me.
      Might be a moot point, but I appreciate the feedback.


      • #4
        You have not asked a specific question. What question do you have?

        You didn't say if you were fired. If you were apply for unemployment. Be prepared to explain why you overrode your boss' order to you. It wasn't an illegal order, just one you didn't agree with.


        • #5
          My question was actually several.
          1.) Does anyone believe it was gender pay discrimination.
          2.) Has anyone ever heard anything as absurd as cutting my fiance's pay to raise mine but after my statement of how we aren't to be viewed as a pkg, he cuts it anyway and doesn't give me a raise?
          3.) Does my other female employee have a case based upon facts I presented?

          In response, yes I was fired as a result of my disagreement with him and yes, I've filled my unemployment but have yet to receive it. Determination was made but I haven't received it in the mail yet.


          • #6
            Also not seeing how gender played a role here. You got a 10K raise after just a few weeks on the job. While your fiancÚ would have a wage claim for not being paid at all for 6 months, his claim has nothing to do with yours. Those hired in different jobs, performing different duties may be paid at different rates. Comparing what those in different jobs make is meaningless.
            I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


            • #7
              Well I'm glad that I contacted someone and got feedback because in the case of my female our company grew, she was becoming overburdened so another person was hired who is male. He has only three months experience whereas the female has six yrs. They are performing the exact same duties and she trained him. She's also been with us for eight months. He joined us, less experience, same job making $5/hr more and benefits.
              The other thing this owner does is offer done employees health insurance and others none.
              I was told when I started that is have insurance but didn't get it until after I was hospitalized 9 mos later. Some others started with insurance ,others denied. The denial was not based upon position or need. I have several installers that were given insurance the date they started yet others who still have none.
              My 10k raise came 8 months after I started and was supposed to have been after six months.
              Thank you again for your feedback. I do appreciate it.


              • #8
                Raises are not mandated so whether it was 6 or 8 months after hire doesn't matter. Making it retroactive would have been nice but not required by law.

                Health insurance must be offered according to the summary plan document. That is the document that outlines how the health insurance plan works. It is possible to set up different classes of employees who receive different benefits and have it be legal. For instance, my company doesn't offer part time employees benefits and that is legal.

                What proof does the female employee have that the male employee makes more due to his gender and not due to his ability to negotiate better than the female employee? Female employee could file a claim with the EEOC but she could kiss her job goodbye if she does.

                As for cutting your fiance's wages to give you more, not the best move but not illegal as long as the minimum wage has been met.

                You need to understand that there is a big difference between unfair and illegal.


                • #9
                  The lesson to learn here, and I know it's not always this simple, but seriously, you have to insist on being paid what you are worth. I certainly believe in the glass ceiling and that sex discrimination exists, but I also believe that women, as a group, are far more likely to "take one for the team", accept promises and excuses, and not negotiate. You tolerated a lot from this guy and got screwed over, and I don't blame you for being pissed off. Unfortunately, proving gender discrimination purely based on pay is very difficult in court, and a sample size of 2 employees almost certainly will not get it done.

                  The one compelling piece of evidence you have is the "package deal" nonsense, but from what you posted, it's his word against yours that he ever said that. He can invent a reason why he made that decision and it will be very hard to disprove. And frankly, both you and your husband should have told him you were walking at that point. If you were both as valuable to the business as you say, he would have caved.

                  As Elle said, if you are still within the statute of limitations your husband could (and should) file a wage claim for the six months he worked with no pay.


                  • #10
                    There are a million reasons one employee might be paid more or less than another, even within the same job. Totally legal reasons include being paid more in the past, better negotiating, more education, special skill, nepotism, experience (in the job, industry, region, etc.), market conditions at time of hire, productivity, seniority and thousands more. With just two employees, it is very difficult to prove that among the millions of legal reasons, it is an illegal one which accounts for the disparity unless the decision maker admits the reason, or it can be inferred as the only possible explanation. This is very rare, but say you have two employees, one a woman with a Masters, 10 years of direct job and industry experience, and another a male recent graduate with an Associates degree and only a few PT jobs in the past, not in the industry or related to the job, but you pay the guy $5 more an hour. Assuming he isn't the boss's kid, it would be very difficult to justify the disparity any way other than gender. It is possible there is a reasonable explanation, but it doesn't look likely.
                    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.