Unequal Pay for Women and Class Actions: Is There a Case?

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The question of equal pay for women has been in the national spotlight in recent months. Highlighted by the first-ever nomination of a female presidential candidate by a major party, the country’s perceived “glass ceiling” that prevents women from achieving to the same levels of men has come under intense scrutiny.

The battle to achieve equality has now moved to the courtroom, with prominent companies facing class action lawsuits alleging unequal pay and discriminatory practices that hinder the success of female employees.

Biglaw Equal Pay Class Action

Law firms have long had a reputation for being an “old boys’ club.” On July 26, 2016, a female partner at one of the country’s most prominent law firms decided to challenge the status quo, filing a class action lawsuit against Sedgwick LLP, alleging that the law firm’s “male-dominated culture” prevents female partners from earning equal pay and partnership status.

Traci Ribiero, a non-equity partner in Sedgwick’s Chicago office since 2012, is the third highest revenue generator at the firm. Ribiero is now alleging that the firm’s glass ceiling has prevented her from achieving equity partnership at the firm, something routinely granted to her male counterparts.

Ribiero is not only bringing suit on her own behalf. Rather, she has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the women at her firm who are paid less than male attorneys, according to the complaint. In addition to Ribiero’s inability to advance to equity partnership, the lawsuit alleges that female associates at Sedgwick make up to $50,000 per year less than male associates, despite being more profitable and productive.

According to the complaint, when Ribiero attempted to raise an issue about the inequality in associate pay, a male partner in her department told their colleagues that Ribiero “needed to learn how to behave” and suggested that her salary be reduced. This is merely one of many examples of the firm’s alleged discriminatory culture that are outlined in the lawsuit.

For now, Ribiero remains at the firm, while a complaint that she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January is investigated. Sedgwick has denied the allegations.

Qualcomm Gender Discrimination Settlement

Law firms are not the only businesses to see gender discrimination class action lawsuits in recent days. On July 26, 2012, the same day Ribiero filed suit against Sedgwick, tech giant Qualcomm agreed to pay $19.5 million to settle a class action suit that alleged that female employees were denied the same pay and job opportunities as male employees.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of approximately 3,300 women in STEM positions at Qualcomm, alleged that women held less than 15% of the leadership positions at the company, were promoted less often, and earned less money than their male counterparts.

While the company insisted it had strong defenses to the claims, it agreed to settle the claims. As part of the settlement, Qualcomm committed to implementing programs and policy changes aimed at better promoting women employees. Given that STEM is historically a heavily male-dominated industry, analysts are eagerly watching to see what impact the settlement may have on other major players in the field.

Consult an Experienced California Class Action Attorney

Class actions are complex, and the thought of challenging a major corporation can seem daunting. Often, however, class actions are the only way to bring about a much-needed change in company policies.

At McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, we have a proven track record of representing plaintiffs in a wide variety of class action cases, including employment matters. With over twenty-five years experience handling class actions, our dedicated attorneys are here to guide you through the process and help you determine if a class action is the right course of action in your situation. If you have questions about class action lawsuits, contact us today for a free consultation.

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