Both sides claim to win sex discrimination suit

May 06, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Both sides are declaring themselves winners of a sex discrimination suit in which a former Carroll County Bank and Trust senior vice president is receiving $6,000 from her previous employer.

Barbara S. F. Pease, formerly of Westminster, accepted the money in exchange for an offer of judgment from the bank in the civil suit she filed in December. The suit claimed she was paid less than her male colleagues.

The suit, which sought $200,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages, also stated that Ms. Pease had repeatedly been given additional responsibilities without an increase in pay during her five years with the bank.

Frequent meetings with Carroll County Bank President Thomas K. Ferguson from January 1988 through May 1992 about the pay inequity did not remedy the situation, the suit said.

"What Ms. Pease was looking for was an admission from the bank that it had not treated her fairly," said her attorney, John R. Kaye of Columbia. "This outcome succeeds in giving Ms. Pease that outcome. It permits Ms. Pease the vindication that she wanted."

Bank officials, however, said the order was simply a part of the federal courts process and not an admission of guilt.

"This part of the [federal court] rules says the defendant's counsel has to make an offer and the opposing counsel has the option to accept that offer," said Gerald Alsentzer, a Carroll County Bank senior vice president. "We go through that process rather than dealing with the expense of going to court.

"There's been no decision on the merits of the suit. We have the same position we had before -- that there was no merit to the suit and we were prepared to defend it."

Mr. Ferguson said when the suit was filed that the U.S. Equal Employment Commission ruled in September that there was no probable cause for Ms. Pease's complaint. Ms. Pease filed her complaint with the EEOC when she resigned from Carroll County Bank in September 1992.

The judgment order -- which was signed by federal District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin on April 28 -- reads, in part, "judgment is hereby entered in the amount of $6,000, inclusive of costs and attorney's fees, in favor of the plaintiff, and against the defendant."

Judge Smalkin was unavailable for comment.

Ms. Pease said the judgment gives her an opportunity to dispel any rumors about what she views as a forced resignation from the bank.

"When you're suddenly discharged from a company you've been with for five years, it leaves a lot of suspicion," she said. "Being an accountant, your credibility and honesty are a large part of why people employ you. Not being able to explain what happened left a lot of suspicion in a lot of people's minds."

In the suit, Ms. Pease said she was hired in June 1987 as a senior vice president and chief financial officer. At that time, the bank employed four other senior vice presidents and an executive vice president, all males.

When Executive Vice President Edwin Shauck retired in September 1987, Ms. Pease accepted his responsibilities as well as payroll duties, the suit said. Upon learning that Michael Oster, another senior vice president, was earning significantly more than she was, Ms. Pease approached Mr. Ferguson and was assured the situation would be rectified, she said.

Ms. Pease took charge of strategic planning in early 1988 and bank operations in October 1991, and was allegedly told again that her pay would be increased. She approached Mr. Ferguson again in November 1991 and was told the pay inequity would be corrected, the suit said.

When the bank created Mason-Dixon Bancshares, the bank's holding company, in March 1992, Ms. Pease was designated its senior vice president. However, Mr. Oster, who was not given additional responsibilities, continued to receive a considerably higher salary, the suit said.

Ms. Pease met with Mr. Ferguson in April and May 1992, saying that if the situation was not corrected she would resign on Oct. 31, 1992. Mr. Ferguson initially said the grievance was being addressed and then told her in September that the bank would accept her resignation.

Ms. Pease now lives in Severna Park and heads Property Tax Reduction Specialists, a business that represents property owners in assessment appeals. She started her business one year before she left the bank in September 1992.

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