Case Note: American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees v. State of Washington

 

COMPARABLE WORTH

WHEN WASHINGTON STATE ADOPTED COMPENSATION STUDIES THAT SHOWED PAY DISPARITIES IN JOBS TRADITIONALLY HELD BY WOMEN AND THEN FAILED TO RECTIFY SUCH DISPARITIES, THE STATE WAS IN VIOLATION OF FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS EMPLOYMENT LEGISLATION. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees v. State of Washington, 578 F. Supp. 846 (W.D. Wash. 1983).

 

In American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) v. State of Washington, the United States District Court, Tacoma found that the State had engaged in employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 19641 by failing to pay state employees their evaluated worth as determined by the State’s own comparable worth studies. Accordingly, the court ordered injunctive relief and back pay for the plaintiffs.

AFSCME is a case of first impression in that it involves implementation of a comparable worth compensation system. It is not, however, a “pure” comparable worth case where the court is requested to evaluate the intrinsic worth of jobs; no court yet has upheld such a claim. Here the state had made its own determination of the worth of comparable jobs and plaintiffs sought to have that determination implemented. While the doctrine of compara- ble worth can be complex to implement and is not without valid criticisms, none of these criticisms are insurmountable in the present case.

The facts giving rise to this suit go back to 1974 when the results of a joint study conducted by the two Washington State personnel boards were issued. The study concluded in part: “There are clear indications of pay differences between classes predominately held by men and those predominately held by women within the State systems. Such differences are not due solely to job ‘worth’. Further study was recommended “to accurately determine the amount of salary differences and all classes to which a ‘correction’ would apply.” On this recommendation the consulting firm of Norman Willis & Associates was retained to do an independent, comprehensive study” and found that: “[Biased on the measured job content of the 121 classifications evaluated as a part of this project, the tendency is for women’s classes to be paid less than men’s classes, for comparable job worth…”

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Joyce M. James,  Case Note: American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees v. State of Washington, 578 F. Supp. 846 (W.D. Wash. 1983), 19 Gonz. L. Rev. 609 (1983).

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