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Maryland Insurance Administration defeats pay discrimination lawsuit

The Maryland Insurance Administration has defeated a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming the agency paid female investigators less than male employees with the same job.

Senior U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz granted summary judgment in favor of the agency last week, citing evidence that pay disparities were caused by factors such as the employees’ differing levels of experience rather than gender.

“We think that Judge Motz issued a thoughtful, reasoned decision, so we were pleased,” Tracy Imm, the agency’s director of public affairs, said Wednesday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, which was filed in April 2015 after attempts to reach a settlement failed, alleged the MIA had discriminated against three named employees — Alexandra Cordaro, Mary Jo Rogers and Marlene Green — as well as a class of similarly situated female workers by paying them lower wages than those paid to their male counterparts.

The suit alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between employees at the same workplace performing jobs that require substantially equal skills and effort.

The EEOC sought back wages and unspecified damages for employees whose wages the suit claimed had been unlawfully withheld. The lawsuit also sought a permanent injunction from further discrimination, as well as a court order requiring the insurance agency to institute policies and programs to provide equal employment opportunities for women.

But U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled the male employees whose higher wages the EEOC cited as evidence of the agency’s alleged pay discrimination were all either hired at higher levels at the agency than the female fraud investigators or came to the agency with a greater amount of experience, which accounts for the pay disparity.

For example, Motz wrote, one male fraud investigator whom the EEOC claimed was a “comparable” employee was hired at a “Grade 15, Step 10” employment level due to his years of experience as a state employee and decade of work as an insurance fraud examiner for Liberty Mutual Insurance. The female investigators who earned lower wages, by contrast, were hired at “Grade 15, Step 4” and “Grade 15, Step 5” because they did not have as much prior experience.

The EEOC also relied on comparisons between the female fraud investigators and two male enforcement officers because an agency job study had found that the positions were equivalent, Motz wrote. However, the human resources specialist responsible for the study testified that the female fraud investigators and male enforcement officers do not perform the same job, he wrote.

“Thus, as to all of the comparable male employees to which the EEOC points, reasons other than gender justified the pay disparity between them,” Motz wrote.

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Maryland Insurance Administration, 1:15-CV-01091-JFM.

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