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Prisoner Education Guide

Male Vermont Prison Employees Paid $10,000; No Gender Discrimination Found

The Vermont Supreme Court held that Vermont prison officials did not violate state law by paying male employees as much as $10,000 more annually than their female counterparts.

Lynne Silloway began working as a business manager for the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC) in 2002. She discovered in 2010 that she was earning approximately $10,000 less annually than a male co-worker, identified only as John Doe, who was hired in 2003. Two other female business managers, Mary Bertrand and Lisa DeBlois, subsequently learned that they also were being paid much less than Doe.

In 2006, Doe’s $25.01 hourly wage exceeded Bertrand’s $21 an hour, Silloway’s $20 an hour, and DeBlois’s $18.50 an hour. By fiscal year 2012, Doe’s annual salary was $58,531 while Bertrand, Silloway, and DeBlois made between $6,385 and $10,200 less annually.

The Vermont Human Rights Commission and the three female VDOC employees filed state suit against the VDOC and the Vermont Department of Human Resources. They alleged that VDOC violated the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act (VFEPA), 21 V.S.A. §§ 495- 496a, by paying male employees in the same position as much as $10,000 more than female employees, without a legally defensible, gender-neutral reason.

The trial court granted Defendants summary judgment, concluding that VDOC satisfied its burden of proving its affirmative defense that the wage disparity was “based on bona fide reasons other than gender, including Doe’s work history, education and prior salary, and the DOC’s exigent need.”

The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted to the State. “Because Doe’s initial classification was based on legitimate business considerations connected to his employment and not perpetuating discrimination and because the subsequent increases he received were pursuant to legitimate policies,” the Court concluded that “the State successfully demonstrated an affirmative defense.”

Even so, the Court acknowledged that the Vermont legislature had recently found that “although pay inequity has been illegal since 1963, gender discrimination through pay inequity ‘remains a persistent problem’ in Vermont, and Vermont women earn ‘roughly 84 cents per dollar earned by men.’”

See: Vermont Human Rights Commission v. State of Vermont, 2015 Vt. 138, A.2d(VT 2015).

 

Related legal case

Vermont Human Rights Commission v. State of Vermont


 

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