City to pay $55,000 to former employee in equal-pay suit

Employee in woman and minority business office received substantially less pay than male counterpart

March 15, 2011|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

A former city employee who alleged that her salary was substantially smaller than that of a less-qualified male co-worker has reached a $55,000 settlement with the city.

Lawyers for Melissa Fulton, who worked for the city office of minority and women-owned business development for three years until she was terminated in early 2010, reached the deal in the Federal Equal Pay Act case with the city late last month. The payment is expected to be approved by the city's spending board Wednesday.

City Solicitor George Nilson said that the city agreed to a settlement — which amounts to back pay and attorney's fees — because the chances of winning the case appeared slim.

"At the end of the day, we concluded that we would probably lose," he said.

Fulton was hired in 2007 shortly after Sheila Dixon was sworn in as mayor. A male co-worker, who had the same title and responsibilities, was paid nearly $20,000 more than her $55,000 annual salary, Fulton said in her lawsuit.

Nilson said Fulton's boss had hired the male employee first and had not been able to gather the funds to pay Fulton the same salary.

A separate lawsuit, in which Fulton alleges discrimination by race, gender and age, remains unresolved. Fulton filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission late last year claiming that her termination was unlawful.

Fulton, who was the only white person among the four employees in her office, was the only person in her office fired when Stephanie Rawlings-Blake replaced Dixon as mayor last year, according to the complaint.

She says that she was terminated despite a spotless record, while her younger, black male counterpart who had been formally reprimanded was retained.

Nilson said the city had attempted to settle both cases at once, but Fulton, who is represented by two different attorneys in the suits, declined. Fulton did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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