Jury awards nearly $ 1.4 million to DMACC computer scientist for pay disparity and reprisals

According to a Polk County jury, an information technology worker at Des Moines Area Community College deserves $ 1.4 million in back wages and damages from her employer.

Sandra Selden sued college in 2020, alleging she was paid “tens of thousands of dollars less” than a male colleague despite having the same title and greater responsibilities.

As an Application Support Analyst, Selden worked on software tools and information systems for students and faculty at the school, and was responsible for more systems than his one male colleague. After questioning his superiors about the pay gap, the school refused to consider his request for promotion, which led to a reprisal complaint, according to documents filed by the court.

The case went to trial on November 1 and on November 10 the jury sided with Selden. The college was ordered to pay over $ 223,500 in back wages as well as over $ 986,000 for past and future emotional distress, plus interest, for a total of nearly $ 1.38 million.

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College president Rob Denson said in an email that the school is sticking to its compensation practices.

“Although we cannot comment on the facts of the case, DMACC has a structured process whereby we recruit, select and hire employees, then set compensation based on qualifications and experience,” he said. he said in a statement. “Subsequently, how much someone earns in any position is influenced by longevity. We believe our processes were followed in this case.”

Lawyer David Albrecht, who represented Selden, said the ruling would force the college to deal with an issue it has so far wanted to ignore.

Equal pay for equal work is a simple concept, but it requires vigilance and people like Sandy need to speak up,” he said.

DMACC: Y2K, seniority explains the pay gap

In its court documents, the college argued that there were valid non-discriminatory reasons for the pay gap.

Selden’s male counterpart was in school almost 16 years older than her and had racked up more than a decade of extra raises. While Selden pointed out that female IT workers of similar seniority were also paid less, the school countered that these workers were hired for lower roles and therefore started at a lower pay level.

Also, the school said, it is reasonable for workers hired at a time of high demand to earn higher wages. Selden’s male colleague was hired in 1998, a time when programmers were in high demand due to the year 2000. Selden was hired in 2013, when the job market was less competitive.

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These arguments did not convince the jury, Albrecht said, as members of the 1998 hiring committee said that Y2K had no role in their search, nor did it result in an increase in corresponding salary for women hired at around the same time. And while it’s normal for workers to see their wages increase with seniority, Selden successfully argued that discrimination was built in from the moment she and her colleague were hired.

“The fact that he’s been around for years longer than Sandy has actually played no role,” Albrecht said. “What we were looking at was that the jobs had an initial pay scale, and the evidence the jury heard was that when they initially hired the man (coworker), they did so at a rate much higher, and they didn’t do it with Sandy. “

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The college argued that the wording in her job description for the executive position Selden sought required a computer science degree that she did not have. That meant she couldn’t prove that her gender or that her questioning of the pay gap played a role in the decision not to interview or hire her, he said.

Selden, in court documents, pointed out that her former supervisor, whose role she was seeking, also did not have a computer science degree. The man also didn’t ultimately hire for the job. And the job description also calls for candidates familiar with particular software applications – an experience that Selden, alone among the candidates, had.

The college, Denson said, “is awaiting a decision on all post-trial motions, then will consult with our lawyer to decide on the next steps.”

Selden, meanwhile, plans to stay in her post at the college, Albrecht said.

William Morris covers the courts for the Des Moines register. He can be contacted at [email protected], 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Des Moines Area Community College Must Pay $ 1.4 Million in Wage Gap Lawsuit

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