Salary discrimination based on gender: The Vermont Human Rights Commission says this national problem is something Vermont taxpayers are funding.
"Historically marketplaces have favored men in the workplace in terms of rates and compensation," said Robert Appel, the executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission.
Monday the Human Rights Commission ruled the state of Vermont unfairly paid a male employee more than his female colleague while working for the Marble Valley Corrections Facility in Rutland. And the ruling could impact four other female workers.
"You're paying different genders different rates of pay for substantially the same work. That constitutes a violation," Appel said.
Lynne Silloway, a business manager at the Vt. Department of Corrections, earns roughly $49,000 a year. She's worked at the Department of Corrections for eight years. A male colleague hired after Silloway makes $58,000 a year for doing the same job, even though he's worked there for less time. Seniority usually constitutes a higher salary.
"The outcome puts these women who have performed the same duties for extensively longer period of service at a considerable disadvantage," Appel said.
"I'm not so much worried so much about who's responsible as much as I'd be worried about fixing it and making sure that if there is a real problem that we address it," Vt. Human Services Commissioner Kate Duffy said.
Duffy declined to speak about the specifics of this case because of ongoing litigation. She says the state has a specific policy, called a hire into range policy, which allows them to pay more qualified candidates a higher salary for a particular position. It's based on 15 steps or salary ranges based on time on the job. Typically a new employee has a step one salary.
"You might start them at the sixth step so that your salary is bumped up a little bit and you can compete for talent," Duffy said.
The male employee started out at step 13; Silloway and her female counterparts started at step one. The Human Rights Commission report says the man was likely offered a higher salary to start because he was being lured from the private sector where he was being paid more.
"The only remedy is for Ms. Silloway to be brought up to the same rate of pay and receive back pay compensation," Appel said.
Although the state and the Human Rights Commission hope to solve this dispute over the next six months, Silloway has every right to file a suit herself at any time.
None of the other four female workers who could be impacted have filed suits at this time, but that's another element the commission plans to address in coming months. The other four women have every right to file a complaint and could be reimbursed similarly.
Appel says although this is the first case of gender disparity for state workers he'd be surprised if it was the only one.