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Motion to dismiss Pratt pay discrimination lawsuit denied

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.

A federal judge has denied the Baltimore’s motion to dismiss a pay discrimination suit against the Enoch Pratt Free Library filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The federal agency alleged in September 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.

Lawyers for the city, in seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, argued the 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.

But Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled Thursday said the city was “irresponsibly mischaracterizing” findings by the EEOC that the library took into consideration other salary offers the male employee received as well as his past salary. The EEOC was merely quoting the city’s argument, not asserting them as fact, Blake said.

“To be clear, the factors other than sex that were found by the EEOC to be pretext for sex discrimination encompass the matching of competitive salary offers,” Blake said.

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis said Friday the city anticipated the case would continue even if Blake sided with the defendants.

“We knew that even if the court granted the motion the EEOC would have an opportunity to replead the case and add allegations to cure any deficit,” Davis said, adding that affirmative defenses can rarely be used to dismiss a case at the pleading stage.

“We thought this might be one of those rare cases,” he said.  “At this point, we look forward to exchanging discovery with the EEOC and seeing the case through to conclusion.”

The EEOC filed suit on behalf of Ann Marie Harvey, who began working as a librarian the Neighborhood Library Services Division in 1997 and was promoted to supervisor position in 2002. 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 rehired male employee $6,000 more than Harvey and between $1,000 and $6,000 more than four other female librarian supervisors who had more years of experience.

The EEOC declined to comment on pending litigation.

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

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