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US Steel Sued: Gender Discrimination Lawsuit for Equal Pay

There is a part in the film Godfather II when Hyman Roth says to Michael, "Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel."

That's because U.S. Steel, the world's first ever billion dollar corporation, was once the standard of size and excellence in American business. Founded by JP Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, at one point it was known simply as "The Corporation."

Over the years U.S. Steel has faced a government takeover by President Truman during the Korean War, not to mention millions of lawsuits. Now add one more to the list. This case involves a woman named Mabel Olivas, a human resources employee who claims that she was not paid as much as  similarly situated male employees, reports the Southeast Texas Record.

According to the suit, Mabel Olivas sent her supervisor an email to discuss her compensation in July 2010, to try and make it the same level as the male that had been in her position before. Her request for an increase was denied and by October 2010, she was terminated.

Now she has sued for i) being paid less than a similarly situated male employee and ii) for a retaliatory firing.

The first part of Olivas' case will likely be brought under the Equal Pay Act.

According to FindLaw, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 is a federal law which prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of gender. The EPA was enacted to rectify the pay inequity that existed (and still persists) between men and women who perform the same job duties.

To bring a claim under the EPA, the employee must show that: a man and a woman; working at the same place; and doing the substantially the same job (equal work) are receiving unequal pay. The third element is obviously the most difficult to prove.

Once the employee proves her case, the burden of proof then shifts to the employer to disprove any of the three elements. Employers can justify a pay differential by showing that the pay difference was a result of: a seniority system; a merit system; a system which measures quantity or quality of work; or any reason other than gender.

Whether or not Ms. Olivas is successful in the equal pay part of the case will not have an effect on her ability to prove retaliatory firing. In other words, she could win damages for a retaliatory firing even if she can't prove that there was no unequal pay. After all, the courts want employees to be able to talk with their supervisors about pay without fear of getting fired.

Male and female pay is still not equal even at the highest levels, even female CEO's make only 85% of what male CEO's make. As such, it is likely that cases like those of Mabel Olivas will persist.

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