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Eleventh Circuit Takes a Closer Look at Equal Pay

Quensha Bowen was a car detailer for Manheim Remarketing. After three years in the position, she was promoted to arbitration manager. She received a substantial raise that made her yearly salary $32,000. However, Ms. Bowen’s male predecessor had a starting salary of $46,350. Ms. Bowen’s salary did not reach that level until she had been in the position for six years.  

After learning of the pay disparity, Ms. Bowen filed suit alleging violation of the Equal Pay Act and discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Summary judgment was granted in favor of Manheim Remarketing at the district court level. Ms. Bowen appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Via testimony and documents, Ms. Bowen was able to demonstrate that for several years her arbitration manager salary was below the starting salary and well-below the average midpoint salary for males in that position. The company defended the differential between Ms. Bowen and her predecessor on the grounds that the predecessor had more experience within the company, had prior management experience, and had mechanical experience. For her part, Ms. Bowen was able to demonstrate that she was a good performer and that her pay was not just lower but consistently at the bottom of the pay scale. In addition, a company Human Resources manager testified that female employees throughout the company were paid less than their male co-workers. This HR manager had challenged Ms. Bowen’s supervisors on being biased against women. The court of appeals concluded that a jury could find that Ms. Bowen’s prior salary and experience did not sufficiently explain the ongoing pay differential. Manheim had to establish that none of its choices were based on bias and the HR manager would testify that the opposite was true. Her case may proceed to trial.