Koch Foods of Mississippi, LLC, a poultry processor headquartered in Illinois and operating a plant in Morton, Miss., violated federal law by paying a female plant coordinator less than a male plant coordinator doing equal work, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
EEOC charged that Koch Foods has continuously paid Yulanda Brown at a lower rate, while giving her a greater workload than it gave to her male counterpart, who has the same title and position. On several occasions, Brown requested to be paid on an equal basis as her male counterpart, but her requests for pay increases and equal pay were denied, EEOC said.
Pay discrimination is illegal under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which prohibits sex-based wage differentials for work requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility performed under the same or similar working conditions. It is also illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which generally prohibits employment discrimination, including in compensation, on the basis of sex. Both statutes are enforced by EEOC, and EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Koch Foods violated both. EEOC filed suit on Sept. 30 (EEOC v. Koch Foods of Mississippi, LLC [Civil Action No. 3:16-CV-768-TSL-RHW] in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi after an investigation was completed by EEOC’s Jackson Area Office and after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, liquidated, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
“The enforcement of federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination is a national priority of the Commission,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for EEOC’s Birmingham District. “Sadly, more than 50 years after Congress acted to make workplace discrimination against women illegal, including unequal pay, some employers continue these practices. EEOC will continue to work to achieve the common-sense principle embodied in the law that women should receive equal pay for equal work.”
C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, said, “This lawsuit sends the clear message that EEOC will enforce the rights of workers to be fairly compensated for their work without regard to gender. Compensation cannot be dictated by gender when employees perform work of equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.”
Enforcement of equal pay laws and targeting compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on gender is of one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.