$63,500 in Back Pay, Damages and Attorney's Fees in Equal Pay Discrimination Case Against Food Distributor

 
Thursday, January 7, 2016
 

Gilbert Foods LLC, trading as Hearn-Kirkwood, a food service distributor, will pay $63,500 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve an EEOC pay discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.

EEOC charged that Hearn-Kirkwood paid Sonia Coates, an order selector, less than it paid male order selectors, even though she had more experience and performed equal work at its Hanover, Md. facility. When Coates learned that Hearn-Kirkwood paid a newly-hired male order selector significantly more per hour than she was earning, she told coworkers she intended to file a charge of discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, after a Hearn-Kirkwood manager learned about Coates's plan to file a charge, he informed Coates's supervisor that Hearn-Kirkwood intended to fire her without making it appear unlawful. Hearn-Kirkwood engaged in a pattern of retaliation, including unwarranted disciplinary actions that culminated in Coates' termination, EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Gilbert Foods LLC t/a Hearn-Kirkwood, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-02536-JKB) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Maryland, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $63,500 in back pay, compensatory damages and attorney's fees to Coates, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Hearn-Kirkwood from engaging in sex-based wage discrimination or retaliation. Hearn-Kirkwood will provide training on the laws prohibiting pay discrimination and other forms of employment discrimination to management and human resources officers. Hearn-Kirkwood will also report to the EEOC about its compliance with the consent decree, including how it handled any internal complaints of sex-based wage discrimination, and it will post a notice about the settlement.

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