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City offers raises, back pay to female Enoch Pratt librarian supervisors

Baltimore is seeking to settle an Equal Pay Act lawsuit over salaries for librarian supervisors at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and will offer to increase the claimants’ salaries and provide back pay.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017, alleged female librarian supervisors are paid less than a male counterpart who was hired in 2015. On Tuesday, City Solicitor Andre M. Davis said the city was making an offer of judgment that would increase the salaries of the women involved in litigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, effective July 1, and would provide “full back pay.”

The offer is worth approximately $100,000, according to Davis, who called it “full relief to the claimants.”

Davis said the city as a whole is revising its hiring policies so they comport with best practices, which include not asking applicants about prior salary during the hiring process. The hiring policy updates will need to be approved by the Baltimore City Board of Estimates.

The offer to the librarians comes less than a week after the EEOC filed a motion for summary judgment on liability, arguing that there are no disputed facts and that the city and the library cannot show an affirmative defense.

Davis said the EEOC typically insists on consent decrees to ensure compliance with the law but does not believe it is necessary in the city’s case, given the steps being taken to compensate the complainants and to revise policies.

“The city of Baltimore is not some private business that is hostile to equality of pay,” he said. Davis said he also does not believe liquidated damages, used to punish a malicious act of discrimination, are warranted.

Though the city informed the EEOC of the plan to make an offer, Davis said he does not know what the reaction will be, noting that “they are determined to litigate this to the very end.”

Debra M. Lawrence, the EEOC regional attorney for the case, declined to comment on active litigation Tuesday.

The initial complainant, Ann Marie Harvey, began working as a librarian in the Neighborhood Library Services Division in 1997 and was promoted to a supervisor position in 2002, according to the EEOC motion filed Thursday. In 2015, the Pratt hired a male library supervisor who had previously been with the city library system but left 16 months earlier to work for a smaller library system.

The male employee was hired as a librarian supervisor even though he did not submit an application or participate in an interview panel, according to the motion. There was no vacancy at the time, but the defendants “found one for him” in a different department and temporarily placed him at a library branch. He was paid $6,000 more than Harvey and between $1,000 and $6,000 more than four other female supervisors who had more experience.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake denied the city’s motion to dismiss last year.

To make a case under the Equal Pay Act, the EEOC must show that a female and male colleague performed equal work in a job requiring equal skill and responsibility under similar conditions but that the female employee received lower wages, according to the motion. The employer can prove the difference is justified via a seniority system, merit system, system measuring earnings by production or a differential based on something other than sex.

When he returned to the Pratt, the male employee worked in a position requiring less skill than that required for the jobs held by the female librarian supervisors, according to the motion; later he performed the same core duties with the same deadlines. He did not perform any additional duties or responsibilities.

The city argued the male employee was hired at a rate based on the higher salary he received and the experience he gained in his 16 months at the other library system, according to the motion, but the EEOC alleges there is no evidence to support that this is in fact an explanation for the wage disparities.

“While Defendants’ witnesses have made broad post hoc assertions about why (the) salary was justified, none could recall those justifications actually driving the salary decision at the time it was made,” the motion contends. “None of Defendants’ witnesses could recall, for example, when the decision to re-hire (the employee) was finalized, or who finalized it.”

Communications after Harvey filed a complaint show library leadership sought information to justify the male employee’s salary; an email sent to him asked him to send “anything to justify why (he) got the salary that he did.”

Davis called Enoch Pratt “one of the jewels of the city” and not a lawbreaker. He said the city would respond to the summary judgment motion as required by the court.

The case is U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Enoch Pratt Free Library et al., 1:17-cv-02860.

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