A federal jury in East St. Louis is deciding whether a Granite City woman's claim that she was paid less by the Madison County Regional Office of Education than her male colleague is valid.
Youth Advocate Mary Parker's annual salary was $30,742 in 2008 while her male counterpart Brian McGivern was making $43,035, according to a lawsuit that Parker filed in 2010.
Testimony during the trial this week showed that McGivern left the position to teach, but returned. The Regional Office continued to pay McGivern his teacher's salary and put him on the teacher's pay schedule, which was much higher than Parker's, even though both had their undergraduate degrees.
The case went to the jury Thursday for deliberations. The jury must decide whether federal law that states people holding similar jobs with similar education, experience and responsibilities must have similar pay rates, unless there is legitimate justification for the disparity other than gender, applies.
In Illinois, women earn 78 cents to every man's dollar, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In four of 10 households, women are the main breadwinners.
Illinois has a state statute that addresses equal pay. The Equal Pay Act was strengthened in July. Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a provision that allows employees to sue those who discriminate against them in their wages individually, as well as corporate officers and agents. That provision will take effect on Jan. 1.
The state law prevents employers with four or more employees from "paying unequal wages to men and women doing substantially similar work that requires similar skills, effort responsibility and under similar working conditions"
Since Illinois' equal pay bill became a law in 2004, the Department of Labor has received more than 600 complaints and has recovered more than $500,000 in back pay for women who were illegally paid less than their male co-workers doing the same work.
The jury will decide whether Parker, a Madison County truant officer, was paid less than McGivern because of her gender. If it decides the only reason for the pay disparity is because she was a woman, Parker will ask for economic and compensatory damages, interest, attorney's fees and court costs.
The jury will continue its deliberations Friday.