Three former employees say Virginia Tech values men more than their female counterparts.
Related: Court documents
Women who worked in university development in the mid-2000s are suing Tech for gender discrimination. The trial begins Monday.
Shana Maron, formerly known as Shana Kennedy before a divorce, filed a lawsuit against Tech on Oct. 7, 2008, alleging the university paid her and other female employees less than their male counterparts.
Two more former Tech employees, Erin Hofberg and Getra Hanes, joined Maron’s suit in the following months.
Larry Hincker, university spokesman, said Tech believes the allegations are without merit, and the facts, when presented in court, will underscore its position.
According to the case files, the plaintiffs claim Tech violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on gender, in this case.
Nicholas Woodfield, the lead attorney for Maron and the other plaintiffs, said the most dynamic point in the case is that the Equal Pay Act says plaintiffs don’t have to prove Tech acted with intent. Rather, Tech must justify the reasons for its pay disparities.
“There is no question that it was paying similarly situated comparators more,” Woodfield said. “The question is why.”
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages. Woodfield said his clients are asking Tech to pay them the difference between what they were earning while employed and what the highest male comparators were earning.
Woodfield said the differences range from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars per paycheck.
He said his clients were advised to avoid speaking to the press because their words could be used against them.
According to the files, Maron was hired as an assistant director of university development in March 2006. She later worked in the same position for development in engineering. Her annual salary was $49,000.
The files state that Maron met with Robert Bailey, the senior director of regional gifts for university development, in April 2007 regarding a regional director position.
Maron told Bailey she expected an annual salary of $68,500 in the new position because Field Glover, the male who last occupied the position, started at that amount, according to the files. Bailey offered Maron $48,000 as compensation for the position.
She also claims Bailey made gender-discriminatory statements about women. According to the files, Maron said he told her she was not worth the same as Glover because she was a woman and not the head of a household. Bailey allegedly told her that hiring a woman poses a liability and waste of space because pregnancy could cause missed work, according to the files.
According to the files, Maron also claimed Bailey told her he might “slap her with a ‘wet noodle’” if she repeated that he made those statements.
Bailey was not available for comment.
Tech argues in the files that it uses gender-neutral factors to determine salaries. Hincker wrote in an e-mail statement that the university has a strong non-discrimination policy, and it takes any discrimination allegation seriously.
According to the files, Hofberg was a regional director of major gifts for university development from May 2006 until August 2006, and her annual salary was $53,500. Hanes was a regional director of major gifts from October 2006 until April 2008. Her annual salary matched Hofberg’s.
The plaintiff’s male comparators, Justin Mosby, Benjamin Grove, James Grove and Christopher Lawson, were paid $55,000, $61,000, $63,000 and $67,000 annual salaries upon hire, respectively, the files said.
The four men continue to work at Tech in university development.
Tech claims any difference between the plaintiffs’ salaries and their comparators can be explained by objective metrics, according to the files. This includes fundraising experience, sales and marketing experience, graduate degrees and work experience in higher education.
Woodfield commented on Tech’s method for determining salaries.
“The most interesting thing is Virginia Tech’s apparently inconsistent means of calculating how much new hires might be paid given the possibility that the lack of cohesive policy can lead to such apparent disparities in pay,” he said.
A jury will hear the case in the U.S. District Court in Roanoke, Va., on Monday.