The city of Tulsa has agreed to a court settlement that calls for it to pay one of its female employees $90,000 and give her a salary raise after she claimed she was underpaid in comparison with her male counterparts.
The jointly-agreed judgment filed Aug. 1 in Tulsa federal court comes after a judge ruled that Jackie Stice’s Equal Pay Act claim could go forward to a jury trial.
The judgment, approved by U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan, calls for Stice, who works as a senior utilities analyst in the city Finance Department, to receive a $90,000 payment from the city and approximately $10,000 in additional annual base pay to $80,698.
“We view this settlement as a victory for Ms. Stice,” according to a statement from her attorneys, Daniel Smolen and Lauren Lambright.
“The settlement raised her annual pay approximately $10,000 and finally made her salary commensurate with males in her position.
“The back pay award compensates her for the years she has been paid less for doing the same work as males in her position.”
The settlement is not an admission by the city that it was negligent or that it violated Stice’s rights but rather is “only recognition of the uncertainty of trial.”
Stice, who has worked for the city since 2003, filed a lawsuit against the city on April 10, 2017, in Tulsa County District Court after the city’s Civil Service Commission rejected her claim of gender-based pay inequality.
The city subsequently moved the case, which alleged claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
Eagan, in a July 5 opinion and order, threw out Stice’s claim that the city intentionally discriminated against her. In her ruling for summary judgment in favor of the city on that claim, Eagan noted that the evidence did not support a finding that pay disparities were a result of intentional gender discrimination.
As to the Equal Pay Act claims, the city argued that there was no evidence that it paid Stice less than her male counterparts because of her gender. Any difference in pay, the city claims, was due to other factors such as qualifications and experience.
The city did not dispute that two other male employees were paid more than Stice, but they claimed it was as a result of other factors, including tenure with the city and within the position, education level and “promotional movement within the city.”
Eagan ruled that the city’s explanation for why a male employee with the same title as Stice but less experience was paid $12,000 more annually was “not so convincing that any rational jury would find in favor” of the city on Stice’s Equal Pay Act claim.
Stice, Eagan ruled, has more experience working for the city than the male employee and has two more years of tenure in the position of senior utilities analyst.
“However, she will always earn less money than (the male employee) because her starting salary as a city employee was substantially lower” than the male counterpart’s, Eagan stated in her ruling.
“We hope her case paves the way for women in this state who are being paid less to do the same work as their male coworkers and whose complaints have fallen on deaf ears,” Smolen and Lambright continued. “We are proud of our client for standing up for her right to receive equal pay for equal work, and we were honored to be able to help her.”