Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

EEOC sues Baltimore auto dealership alleging gender bias, retaliation

Last September, Jessica Dotterweich says, she discovered she was being paid less than fellow dispatcher Nathan Brown at Jerry’s Chevrolet Inc. in Baltimore and asked her employer why.

She was fired a week later, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated in a lawsuit filed Monday alleging the auto dealership violated federal laws prohibiting gender discrimination in pay and retaliation for complaining of potential bias.

“Female workers deserve equal pay for equal work,” EEOC’s regional attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Workers have the right to ask about perceived pay discrimination without being fired as a result and that is why we filed this lawsuit.”

Jerry’s Chevrolet representatives did not immediately return messages Tuesday seeking comment on the lawsuit.

According to EEOC’s complaint, Jerry’s personnel office notified Dotterweich it would look into why she was being paid more than $350 less per pay period for doing the same work as Brown at the company’s auto parts warehouse.

The office responded a week later by firing Dotterweich for having violated the company’s policy against off-color remarks by telling co-workers she was buying “a bag of d—s” – penis-shaped gummy bears – as a gift, EEOC stated.

The commission alleged the company’s explanation for Dotterweich’s firing was a mere pretext for illegal retaliation. As evidence, EEOC cited Jerry’s earlier alleged non-dismissal of a male employee who was merely written up for having viewed pornography at his desk in violation of company policy.

“In fact, Dotterweich’s termination, on the heels of her complaint about unequal pay, was the result of this complaint, and was in retaliation for her engaging in protected activity,” EEOC stated in the complaint.

According to EEOC, Jerry’s assigned Brown in May 2019 to dispatcher at a semi-monthly salary of $1,787.50, plus a monthly bonus of $300. By contrast, the company assigned Dotterweich to dispatcher in October 2019 at a semi-monthly salary of $1,400 with no monthly bonus, the commission added.

The jobs performed by Brown and Dotterweich “required equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and were performed under similar working conditions,” entitling the workers to the same compensation regardless of gender under the 1963 Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, EEOC stated in its complaint. Jerry’s retaliatory firing of Dotterweich also violated these federal laws, EEOC added.

The commission is seeking a court order requiring Jerry’s to provide back pay with interest to Dotterweich as well as reinstatement or front pay. EEOC also seeks punitive damages for Dotterweich for Jerry’s alleged “malicious and reckless conduct” as well as compensation for her non-pecuniary losses, such as emotional pain and suffering.

“The EEOC is committed to enforcing workers’ rights to receive equal pay,” the commission’s district director, Jamie R. Williamson, stated in announcing the lawsuit. “This case should remind employers to review their pay practices, correct and remedy any unlawful pay discrimination, and ensure that no worker is retaliated against for exercising their rights protected under federal law.”

The case is docketed in the U.S. District Court for Baltimore as U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Jerry’s Chevrolet, Inc., No. 1:21-cv-02464-DLB.