Female City Employees Allege Pay Discrimination


A third female city employee has joined a lawsuit filed against the City of San Antonio for allegedly violating the federal Equal Pay Act.

Brenda Werts, a former employee of the city Capital Improvement Management Services department, joins two other female city employees in their lawsuit against the City claiming violation of the federal Equal Pay Act.

Christine Peden and Jeanne Martinez brought forth the original complaint over the summer, claiming that as operations managers in the Animal Care Services department they were paid less than their male counterparts for equal work. Their complaint also alleges the City retaliated against them after they brought their concerns forward.

Werts officially joined the suit Friday, Oct. 10.

According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is responsible for investigating potential employment discrimination based on sex, gender, or race, Werts applied for a special projects manager position in the Capital Investment Management Services department and was accepted. According to the EEOC determination, the salary for that position ranges from $56,922 to $96,767, but Werts was offered $56,000. When her counter offer was declined by the department, a male candidate was hired with a salary of $75,000. The City claimed Werts declined the offer entirely, Werts denies that she did, according to the EEOC.

After reviewing the case, the EEOC found Werts was “rejected for the position of Special Projects Manager given her salary demands, and the position was offered to a male candidate at a much higher salary level due to (Werts’) sex, female, in violation of the (Equal Pay Act)," Travis Hicks, director of the EEOC, wrote in his determination.

Peden and Martinez filed their original complaint against the City over the summer.  According to court filings, the two women allege they were paid significantly less by the City than their male counterparts when serving as operations managers for the Animal Care Department.

According to the complaint, Peden was promoted to an interim operations manager position in 2011 and her pay ranged from $28,000 to $33,000 per year. Between December 2010 through January 2014, Martinez was paid approximately $56,000 as an Animal Care operations manager.

Two men hired in 2012 as Animal Care operations managers and were paid significantly higher than Peden and Martinez: one received a salary of $70,000 and the other a salary of $80,000, according to the complaint.

Upon voicing their concerns over the pay disparity, Peden and Martinez claim the City retaliated against them. According to the complaint, the women said they received letters from the City, “which warned them not to talk about employee salaries.” When Martinez filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on January 2, 2013, she claims she was suspended twice and then fired from her position shortly after. According to the complaint, the City “contended it terminated Martinez for workplace misconduct related to her alleged failure to report an employee for playing basketball on light duty.” The complaint also alleges the City retaliated against Peden by demoting her.

Prior to the lawsuit against the City, the EEOC began investigation Peden’s and Martinez’s claims and found that the City did discriminate against them and retaliated against them for speaking up.

Lawrence Morales II, who represents the women in the lawsuit, said the parties are now in mediation with the City for the second time.

“The primary goal is to make sure the women receive the pay that they’re entitled to under the law, that is, the pay that the men received in performing the same job,” he said. “

Deborah Klein, representing the City in the lawsuit, said the City does not pay salaries based on gender but based on experience, qualifications, responsibilities, and performance. She said the City will continue to “vigorously” defend the lawsuit.

“The City disagrees with the allegations by the individuals, one a former employee of Animal Care Services who was terminated for poor performance and the other, a current employee of Animal Care Services who was not selected for a permanent promotion she sought.  The City has made important changes in personnel and operations at Animal Care Services in the last several years to improve services to the community,” she wrote in a statement to the Current.

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