Magazine article HRMagazine

Female Engineer Lacks Triable Gender-Bias Claim

Magazine article HRMagazine

Female Engineer Lacks Triable Gender-Bias Claim

Article excerpt

Foco v. Freudenberg-Nok Gen. P'ship, 6th Cir., No. 12-2174.

An auto parts manufacturer did not discriminate against a female engineer when it paid her less than male employees who had similar duties, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held.

Freudenberg-Nok General Partnership (FNGP) employed Nicole Foco as a college intern. When she graduated with a degree in plastics engineering technology in 2004, the business hired her as a test engineer. Foco's position involved testing materials and did not require her to have contact with customers. FNGP promoted her to an applications engineer in 2007. That role required her to serve as a technical liaison with customers but did not involve direct sales or profitability responsibilities. In 2009, Foco was given some account manager duties with smaller, less lucrative customers. She alleged that the manufacturer promoted her to account manager, but FNGP claimed that it was simply allowing Foco to gain some account manager experience and that she was never actually promoted.

In 2008 and 2009, the manufacturer gave Foco regular raises while freezing or reducing the pay of her co-workers.

Foco brought a gender-based compensation discrimination lawsuit against FNGP, asserting claims under the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA), Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Michigan's civil rights law. The claims related to her work as an applications engineer and to her later duties in account management. Specifically, she asserted that FNGP paid three other male application engineers substantially more than her. The district court rejected Foco's claim on the grounds that all three of those engineers had significantly more work experience than she did and one also held a master's degree in plastics engineering.

Foco also said three male account managers were paid substantially more than she was. The district court noted that Foco's position was not substantially equal to the male account managers' positions, which required more skill, experience and responsibility. Moreover, each of the three men she compared herself with, the district court observed, had superior experience and qualifications and worked with clients that produced tens of millions of dollars for FNGP. …

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