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Baltimore seeks to dismiss Pratt pay discrimination lawsuit

Investment losses also took their toll on the Enoch Pratt Free Library last fiscal year, according to the audit presented Wednesday to the Board of Estimates.

(File photo)

Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library paid a male librarian supervisor more than female employees with the same title because his job description included other responsibilities and his pay was commensurate with past experience, lawyers for the city have argued in seeking to dismiss a federal discrimination lawsuit.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in a lawsuit filed in September, alleged the Pratt violated federal law by paying female librarian supervisors lower wages than their male counterparts. The mayor and City Council are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

But in a court filing Monday, the defense argues the EEOC did not show the male librarian and the other librarian had the same “job duties” as is required in a lawsuit alleging a violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in compensation. The lawsuit claims librarian supervisors had the same “core duties,” which the city calls a “bald conclusion.”

“His salary is reflective of his entire career and that’s how the disparity came about,” City Solicitor Andre Davis said Tuesday.

Ann Marie Harvey began working as a librarian the Neighborhood Library Services Division in 1997, and was promoted to supervisor position in 2002, according to the lawsuit. In June 2015, the Pratt hired a male library supervisor who had previously been with the organization but had left to accept a job at the Cecil County library system. Before his resignation from the Pratt, he earned a lower annual salary than Harvey and other female librarians based on their respective years of service and experience, the lawsuit states.

The EEOC alleges the Pratt paid the male employee $6,000 more than Harvey and between $1,000 to $6,000 more than four other female librarian supervisors who had more years of experience.

The city, in its motion to dismiss, counters it considered the male librarian’s past salary in Cecil County when determining his salary at the Pratt.

“Under city practice as currently implemented,” Davis said, “it’s appropriate to take into account, among other things, what a person is earning when a person is hired, so his salary in Cecil County would have been a factor that was examined.”

The city hopes to reach a settlement with the EEOC, he added.

“We’re hoping that we will be able to resolve the case voluntarily,” he said. “We’re always interested in trying to do that.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence declined to comment on pending litigation.

The case is EEOC v. Enoch Pratt Free Library, et al., 1:17-cv-02860.

An applicant for a city government job can offer his or her salary history to get a better bargaining position, Davis said, but applicants aren’t required to give the information if the employer asks.

The General Assembly is considering a bill that would prohibit employers from asking applicants about past wages in an effort to stop what supporters say is perpetual pay gap for women and minorities and people switching industries. However, applicants would still be allowed to voluntarily disclose their past salary if it works to their advantage under the proposed law.

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