A Hagerstown trucking company will pay $42,000 to a female truck driver who claimed the company fired her and wrote disparaging letters to prospective employers in retaliation for her complaint that she was being paid less than her male colleagues.
Winebrenner Transfer Inc.’s promise to pay Tina Thompson settled a lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought on her behalf, claiming the company had violated federal laws barring job discrimination and unequal pay based on gender.
Winebrenner Transfer admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the consent decree, which Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey signed last week at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
“If an employee complains about pay discrimination, or any form of illegal discrimination, the best course of action for the employer is to investigate and take appropriate action to correct the situation,” EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr. said in a statement announcing the settlement. “Everyone loses if an employer acts rashly and fires someone for complaining about pay discrimination, including the employer, who may then face an EEOC investigation or lawsuit.”
EEOC’s Philadelphia district covers Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The company’s attorney, Adam D. Greivell, declined to comment on the case or the decree. He is with Greivell and Garrott Johnson LLC in Hagerstown.
Thompson discovered the pay disparity during conversations with Winebrenner Transfer’s male truck drivers after she was hired by the company in April 2011, according to EEOC’s lawsuit.
She complained to the company’s owner, Randy Winebrenner, in April 2012 and May 2012.
Winebrenner responded that “he would pay Thompson what he wanted,” the lawsuit stated.
On June 11, 2012, Thompson text-messaged Winebrenner about the pay disparity, prompting a return text the following day in which he threatened to fire her, EEOC added.
At a meeting the next day, June 13, Winebrenner told Thompson to quit, saying she could avoid “looking bad” to prospective employers that way. When Thompson refused, Winebrenner fired her, according to the lawsuit, which EEOC filed Sept. 24, 2013.
Winebrenner then gave “negative references” to prospective employers, telling at least one that Thompson was “reckless” and “uncooperative,” the lawsuit stated.
In the lawsuit, EEOC alleged Winebrenner Transfer violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibit gender discrimination in the workplace. EEOC also claimed the company violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s prohibition against firing an employee for having engaged in a protected activity, such as alleging gender bias.
The company denied the allegations in papers filed with the U.S. District Court.
Winebrenner did not return a telephone message seeking comment on the case and consent decree Monday.
EEOC and Winebrenner Transfer stated in the decree that they reached the agreement out of a “desire to resolve this action without the time and expense of continued litigation, and they desire to formulate a plan … that will resolve EEOC’s claims and promote and effectuate the purposes of the FLSA, its retaliation prohibition, and Title VII.”
Under the decree, the company agreed to pay Thompson $21,000 in lost wages and another $21,000 in matching damages under the FLSA.
The decree, which will remain in effect for two years, requires Winebrenner Transfer executives to receive training in complying with equal employment opportunity law, particularly the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. In addition, the company will disseminate to all employees and job-applicants its EEOC-approved anti-discrimination policy and complaint procedure, the decree states.
The company must also post notices of the policy and complaint procedure in areas frequented by employees, according to the decree.
U.S. EEOC V. WINEBRENNER TRANSFER INC.
U.S. District Court, Baltimore
U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey
Consent Decree with payment of $42,000 to complainant, along with training and informational requirements on employer.
Event: June 2012
Suit filed: Sept. 24, 2013
Consent decree: June 5, 2014
Debra M. Lawrence, Jennifer L. Hope and Maria L. Morosco of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Baltimore
Adam D. Greivell of Greivell & Garrott Johnson LLC in Hagerstown
Violations of Title VII, Equal Pay Act and Fair Labor Standards Act