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Lauderdale v. Illinois Department of Human Services

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

November 30, 2017

Marybeth Lauderdale, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Illinois Department of Human Services, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued September 20, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Central Division. No. 13-CV-3062 - Richard Mills, Judge.

          Before Manion and Kanne, Circuit Judges, and Miller, District Judge. [*]


         Marybeth Lauderdale alleges she was paid substantially less than her male colleague despite taking on twice the responsibility. The Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibit state employers from paying an employee less based on her sex. However, the record indicates that the pay discrepancy in this case was not based on sex. Therefore, the district court's grant of summary judgment for the defendants-appellees is affirmed.

         I. Background

         Marybeth Lauderdale served as acting superintendent for the Illinois School for the Deaf ("ISD") from 2006 to 2007 and as superintendent from 2007 to 2010. During her last year as superintendent, she was paid a base salary of $83, 856 plus a 5% bilingual pay bonus, for a total of $88, 048. Reggie Clinton was superintendent for the School for the Visually Impaired ("ISVI") from 1998 to 2003 and again from 2008 to 2010. When Clinton returned to ISVI in 2008, he received a 1.9% salary increase from his most recent salary at the Arcola School District. He was paid, at the end of his tenure at ISVI, $121, 116 per year.

         In 2010, Clinton resigned. The Illinois Department of Human Services, which oversees ISD and ISVI, decided to create one combined superintendent role to cover both schools. The Department offered Lauderdale the role. Lauderdale wanted to be paid as much or more than Clinton had been paid; the Department counteroffered. Communications indicate that some Department employees believed Lauderdale was entitled to a large pay raise because she was taking on two roles. However, the same communications reveal budget constraints and a concern that the Department of Central Management Services would not authorize a 30% pay increase for a public employee. Eventually, Lauderdale accepted a salary of $106, 500, which was less than what Clinton was paid as superintendent of ISVI, but a 21% increase from Lauderdale's salary as superintendent of ISD.

         Lauderdale filed a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination based on the difference between what she was paid and what Clinton had been paid. Specifically, she alleged a violation of the Equal Pay Act by the Department, and she alleged claims of sex discrimination by the Department and several individuals under Title VII and § 1983. Upon a review of the evidence, the district court concluded no reasonable juror could find the pay discrepancy was a product of sex discrimination. The court found that the discrepancy instead resulted from budget concerns and from the application of the Illinois Pay Plan. Furthermore, Lauderdale did not provide sufficient evidence for a jury to find these explanations were pretextual. Thus, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts.

         II. Analysis

         We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo and in doing so construe all facts in the light most favorable to Marybeth Lauderdale, the non-moving party. Hooper v. Proctor Health Care Inc., 804 F.3d 846, 849 (7th Cir. 2015). Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[T]he ultimate question ... is 'whether a reasonable jury could find prohibited discrimination.'" Hooper, 804 F.3d at 853 (quoting Bass v. Joliet Pub. Sch. Dist. No. 86, 746 F.3d 835, 840 (7th Cir. 2014)).

         Because a plaintiff's burden of proof is different for Equal Pay Act claims than it is for Title VII and § 1983 claims, we review Lauderdale's Equal Pay Act claim first, then address her claims brought under Title VII and § 1983.

         A. Equal Pay Act

         Lauderdale claims that the Department violated the Equal Pay Act when it paid her less than it paid Reggie Clinton. The Equal Pay Act prohibits an employer from discriminating between employees on the basis of sex. 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1). To establish a prima facie cause of action under the Act, an employee must demonstrate "a difference in pay for 'equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.'" King v. Acosta Sales & Mktg., Inc.,678 F.3d 470, 474 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1)). If this requirement is satisfied, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to prove some neutral factor that explains the discrepancy in salary. Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196 (1974). The Act provides four affirmative defenses by which the employer can claim the discrepancy is not discriminatory: "where ... payment is ...

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