IT manager denied pay raise after announcing later retirement can’t revive bias claims

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By Joy Waltemath

By Marjorie Johnson, J.D.

An African-American IT manager who, after having announced her planned retirement, was denied her request for a pay raise due to additionally assigned duties, failed to revive her claims of age, race, and gender bias since her purported comparators were not similarly situated and a comment about her impending retirement was not age-based. Her Equal Pay Act claim also failed since a higher paying job that was newly created included “substantially different” responsibilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of her claims on summary judgment (David v. Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508 dba City Colleges of Chicago, January 13, 2017, Ripple, K.).

Raise request. The employee worked for the City Colleges of Chicago since 1980, most recently as the manager of end-user services in the IT department with a salary of about $76,000. In August 2011, she announced her plan to retire the following June. About a month later, she asked for a new job title and more pay because she had begun performing additional PeopleSoft security functions. In response, a superior with authority to make promotion recommendations told her to complete a job analysis questionnaire and commented, “aren’t you about to retire?” He later recommended against a raise based on his determination that her added duties did not warrant one.

The compensation director didn’t believe her position should be retitled or a raise given since the process would take several months and the employee was retiring. Thus, though she filled out the questionnaire, it was never processed and her pay level and job title remained the same. She filed an internal EEO complaint in February, but it was not resolved before her retirement.

After she retired, her PeopleSoft security functions reverted to a younger Asian male who had previously performed them. Six months later, he was placed in the newly created senior systems security analyst (SSSA) job with a salary of about $93,000. In April 2013, the employer also hired an over 40-year-old Hispanic female as a technical applications developer (TAD) with a salary of $85,000. Her job included the employee’s prior PeopleSoft security duties.

No discriminatory pay. Her Title VII and ADEA claims were properly tossed since she failed to demonstrate that the SSSA and TAD were similarly situated. Significantly, the core duties of those positions focused on the development, installation, and monitoring of software programs. Thus, since she did not and could not perform those duties, they were not similarly situated.

Jobs not similar. The court rejected her assertion that the SSSA essentially performed her old job since the positions were not “directly comparable.” For instance, her job had been focused on developing policies and supervising staff related to the delivery of services. It required a college degree in computer science “or a related field” and allowed for consideration of “a combination of educational and work experience.”

In contrast, the SSSA position was responsible for the development, implementation, and servicing of the computer systems themselves. It required a degree in computer science, seven years of experience in “systems analysis, design, software support and application of security controls,” and experience working with PeopleSoft applications. Though the employee admittedly didn’t possess these qualifications, she argued that the new SSSA performed the exact same duties that she had performed before she retired. However, he was also performing the duties from his own prior position and new responsibilities of the SSSA position.

She also wasn’t similarly situated to the TAD hired over one year after she retired. Though that position also performed PeopleSoft security duties, it was focused on software installation, testing, documentation, and maintenance. The employee did not maintain that she was qualified to perform these functions or that she had the requisite degree in computer science.

No discriminatory motive. The Seventh Circuit also rejected her assertion that a discriminatory motive could be inferred from the employer’s failure to process her questionnaire and complete its EEO investigation prior to her retirement. Though she argued it could have completed the review, retitled her position, and given her a raise before retirement, the timing of the approval of the SSSA position suggested the opposite. Specifically, it took management 10 months to assess its IT needs and approve the SSSA position and there was no indication that review of her own position could have been accomplished in a shorter period of time.

Moreover, there was no evidence indicating that her superior believed her performance of PeopleSoft security functions warranted a promotion or a pay increase. Though she argued that since he was not her immediate supervisor he wasn’t suited to make this decision, he oversaw the IT department and had authority to make promotion recommendations. She questioned only the wisdom of the company’s decision to allow him to make the recommendation and not the honesty (or lack thereof) of his explanation.

Retirement comment. The court also rejected her assertion that the superior’s comment about her impending retirement was age-related, finding that since she failed to present evidence explaining how retirement eligibility was determined, it could not equate retirement eligibility with age. Moreover, she was not simply eligible for retirement when she first requested upgrading her position and pay, but had announced her intention to retire several months earlier. Thus, when the superior referenced her impending retirement, he was merely referencing her current employment status as a “short timer.”

EPA claim. Dismissal of her EPA claim was also warranted since she did not perform similar duties as the SSSA position or possess the skills to perform these functions. Rather, the higher paying job included responsibilities that were “substantially different.”

Source:: Employment Law Daily Newsfeed


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