Friday, January 15, 2016

FAA Wins Title VII Employment Discrimination and Equal Pay Act Lawsuit

Earlier this week, in Jaburek v. Foxx (Case No. 15-2165), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the U.S. District Court in favor of the employer in a federal lawsuit alleging violations of Title VII and the Equal Pay Act.  Plaintiff, Roberta Jaburek alleged that her employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a division of the Department of Transportation, discriminated against her because of her national origin (Mexican descent) and sex.
Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against its employees based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-2(a). To demonstrate a prima facie case for failure to promote under Title VII, plaintiff must produce evidence showing that: 1) she was a member of a protected class; 2) she was qualified for the position sought, 3) she was rejected for the position; and 4) the employer promoted someone outside of the protected group who was not better qualified for the position that she sought.

The Seventh Circuit found that Jaburek failed to establish a prima facie case for Title VII failure to promote. Primarily, Jaburek did not show that the FAA rejected her from the position of Program Analyst because she never applied for the position. Additionally, the record lacked evidence that the FAA promoted anyone else to the position of Program Analyst. The only evidence in the record on this point  showed that the two employees, who held the position at issue,  had their positions before Jaburek could have even applied for the position. As such, they could not have been promoted instead of her.

Similarly, Jaburek failed to produce necessary evidence to prove her Equal Pay Act claim.  The Equal Pay Act forbids employers from paying different rates to men and women for the same work at the same “establishment.” 29 U.S.C. Section 206(d)(1).  To state a claim for such discrimination under the Act, a plaintiff must show: 1) higher wages were paid to a male employee, 2) for equal work requiring substantially similar skill, effort and responsibilities, and 3) the work was performed under similar working conditions.  

The Seventh Circuit noted that Equal Pay Act regulation has limited the “establishment” language in the statute to mean the same geographical office, or at least the same city or metropolitan area. Although Jaburek identified three male Program Analysts in the FAA, none of them worked in the Chicago or Fort Worth office, nor did Jaburek demonstrate sufficient evidence to determine if the jobs to be compared have a “common core of tasks” (i.e., whether a significant portion of the two jobs is identical) as required under the Act.

This decision illustrates the strict requirements for plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases generally and how the outcomes in these cases turn on the evidence in the record before the court. Counsel from an experienced labor and employment attorney is crucial in the defense of these claims.