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Baltimore security firm settles Equal Pay Act claim with EEOC

The old Woodward & Lothrop Service Warehouse in Washington houses the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Headquarters and Washington Field Office (WFO). (Wikimedia Commons / AgnosticPreachersKid / “Woodward_and_Lothrop_Service_Warehouse” / CC BY-SA 3.0 / cropped and resized)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission headquarters and Washington field office. (Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid /)

A Baltimore-based security company has agreed to pay 10 women a total of $4,302 to settle a federal agency’s claim they were illegally paid less than their male colleagues for standing guard at events at Royal Farms Arena between October 2016 and March 2018.

Davis & Davis Enterprise Inc. paid the female security guards a flat rate of $72 to work concerts and other events at the Baltimore arena, while the men were paid between $80 and $120, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in its lawsuit filed last year in federal district court in the city.

In agreeing to the settlement, Davis & Davis – which trades as All Secure Security Co. — denied EEOC’s allegation that the company had violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on gender bias in the workplace and the federal Equal Pay Act, which prohibits gender-based wage discrimination.

Bernard A. Cook, the company’s attorney, said his client was prepared to defend itself against EEOC’s claim but that the projected cost of litigation far exceeded the price of settling, especially during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

“It was a better business decision to resolve this case through settlement than going to court,” said Cook, of the Law Offices of Bernard A. Cook LLC in Columbia. “My client did what was best for his company.”

Under the settlement, each woman will receive compensation commensurate to twice the difference between the amount she was paid and the amount her male counterparts were paid at the same events. Such double, or “liquidated,” damages are equivalent to the remedy available under the Equal Pay Act, the EEOC said in a statement announcing the agreement Monday.

The compensation awards under the settlement range from a low of $112, to a woman who worked one concert at the arena, to $788, to a woman who worked 15 events at a pay rate allegedly lower than her male colleagues.

“While the pay disparities at issue in this litigation were relatively small and occurred over a brief time period, the problem of the wage gap that is experienced by women workers in the United States, particularly women of color, is enormous and persistent,” Debra M. Lawrence, EEOC’s regional attorney, said in the statement. “The EEOC will continue to enforce the Equal Pay Act’s requirement of equal pay for equal work in individual cases and to address the broader problem of the sex-based wage gap through its strategic enforcement of federal law.”

The settlement filed Monday in district court requires Lonnie Davis Jr., the company’s owner, to attend a 90-minute training session on the federal laws prohibiting discrimination.

In addition, company management is required to conduct within the next year a review of its payroll and personnel records for the most recent three months and determine if any female employee received wages less than a man who performed a job  that demanded “equal skill, effort and responsibility and (was) performed under similar working conditions.”

That report will have to be submitted to EEOC and include what action the company took or  plans to take to correct any gender-based wage differential found.

“We commend Davis & Davis for working with EEOC to address unequal pay issues identified in the case,” Jamie R. Williamson, director of the agency’s Philadelphia district office, said in EEOC’s statement. “It is important for employers to engage in self-assessment and auditing of pay practices to prevent Equal Pay Act violations and to build positive workplace morale through a commitment to fairness.”

The case was docketed at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Davis & Davis Enterprise Inc T/A All Secure Security Co., No. 1:19-cv-01625-CCB.

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