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Fourth Circuit Finds Professor Lower Salary Not Based on Her Sex

Dr. Zoe Spencer was a sociology professor at Virginia State University. She claimed that she was paid less than her male counterparts because she is a woman in violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.
To establish a violation of the Equal Pay Act, Spencer had to show that the University paid higher wages to a male professor who performed a position equal to her's in skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found Spencer failed to meet the standard in that the male professors she selected to compare herself to did not perform equal work. The two male professors worked in different departments and the court asserted that “differences between academic departments generally involve differences in skill and responsibility.” These professors taught different levels of classes and worked more hours. In concluding she did not produce enough evidence to meet the standard, the Fourth Circuit points out that she had to provide the court with more than broad generalities, there must evidence showing it was “virtually identical” work, skill, effort, and responsibility.
Moreover, even if Spencer could have met the above burden, the University was able to show that the salary difference was based on a factor other than sex. The school had a policy of paying former administrators who became professors “9/12ths” of their salary because professors work just 9 months of the year compared to administrators. These comparators were former administrators. Thus, there was no Equal Pay violation. Similarly, her Title VII case also failed because the University had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the pay difference.