A federal jury in East St. Louis ruled Friday that a Granite City woman was retaliated against by the Madison County Regional Office of Education and awarded her $100,000 in compensation.
However, the jury also ruled that Madison County Regional Office of Education did not violate the Equal Pay Act or discriminate against the plaintiff Mary Parker because of her gender. Parker worked as a youth advocate for the Madison County Regional Office of Education.
Parker's attorney Shari R. Rhode of Rhode and Jackson P.C. in Carbondale described the jury's verdict as an "ideal outcome."
"She's (Parker) going to be fully compensated for the situation," Rhode said. "We disagree with the jury whether there was wage discrimination. They clearly saw the retaliation and I believe that is full vindication. We don't agree with their ruling but respect the right of the jury to make the decision."
The attorney for Madison County Regional Office of Education William W. Schooley III, could not be reached for comment.
According to the lawsuit filed in 2010, Parker's annual salary was $30,742 in 2008 while her male counterpart Brian McGivern was making $43,035.
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.
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.
Court documents state Parker was "ostracized" by employees of the Madison County Regional Office of Education in retaliation for her complaints regarding wage-based disparity. According to the complaint, she was routinely excluded from staff meetings as well as office luncheons.
In addition to the $100,000 compensation, Rhode said her client will also be entitled to back pay from the Madison County Regional Office of Education. The exact amount of back pay has yet to be determined.
It could be as much as three years, according to Rhode, from the date Parker lost her job in the fall of 2009 to the date of the trial verdict Friday.
Rhode said Parker is also entitled to possible reinstatement of employment and front pay, depending on what the court decides. Front pay refers to money awarded for lost wages between the judgment and reinstatement.
Rhode said she isn't sure if Parker would be interested in working again for the Madison County Regional Office of Education. "I don't know if my client wants to go back to work there," Rhode said.
Since the jury ruled in favor of Parker on at least one count, all of her attorney fees and associated court costs will be covered by the defendant, according to Rhode.
Rhode said Parker is "very pleased" with the verdict. "She's pleased most of all the jury confirmed in her verdict that she was retaliated against because she complained about discrimination," Rhode said.
Beth Hundsdorfer contributed to this article. Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or email@example.com.