Federal and NY State Equal Pay Act Claims Survive Summary Judgment; Jury to Decide Equivalence of Work Functions

In Crawford v. ExlService.com, LLC, 2019 WL 5887214 (SDNY Nov. 12, 2019), the court, inter alia, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s federal Equal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. § 206(d)) and New York State Equal Pay Act (N.Y. Labor Law § 194) claims.

The court explained:

As a threshold matter, the parties’ submissions reveal fact issues regarding whether Crawford and her more highly compensated male colleagues performed substantially equal work. See Belfi v. Prendergast, 191 F.3d 129, 135 (2d Cir. 1999) (to prevail on an EPA claim, the plaintiff must establish that the “employer pays different wages to employees of the opposite sex” who “perform equal work on jobs requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility … under similar working conditions”). Although, among other differences, Crawford and her comparator colleagues at times held different titles and oversaw business lines generating different amounts of revenue, reasonable jurors could nonetheless conclude that, for certain periods of time, Crawford and her comparators performed substantially equivalent functions. This is a question for the jury to resolve. See Jamilik v. Yale Univ., 362 Fed. Appx. 148, 150 (2d Cir. 2009) (noting that questions about “the equivalence of two positions pursuant to an EPA claim are best left to the trier of fact”).

There are also fact issues concerning whether Defendants’ proffered justifications for the pay disparity between Crawford and her male colleagues–i.e., that bonuses and other forms of compensation were tied to neutral factors including performance, experience, and responsibility–are pretextual. See Ryduchowski v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 203 F.3d 135, 142 (2d Cir. 2000) (“Once the employer proves that the wage disparity is justified by one of the EPA’s four affirmative defenses, the plaintiff may counter … by producing evidence that the reasons the defendant seeks to advance are actually a pretext for sex discrimination.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)). Among other things, Crawford presented evidence that her performance and experience were on par with that of her male comparators, that Defendants exercised significant discretion in setting compensation, and that the company favored Indian men over non-Indian women. (See Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (“Opp.”), dated June 6, 2019 [dkt. no. 69], at 17-20, 22-23.) Drawing all inferences in favor of Crawford, this leaves open the possibility of reasonable jurors concluding that sexual discrimination explained the pay disparity. The Court therefore denies summary judgment on the EPA claims.

The court also denied summary judgment on plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims; I discussed that aspect of the case here.

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