She Makes More $$ Than Me.

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about lower pay although better educated:

I have been employed at the local school district in Texas going on 3 years. When I was hired, two other girls were hired at the same time. One of those girls, Sara, and I spent a lot of the day working together. One day we were discussing how underpaid we were when I found out that Sara makes quite a bit more than I do. We both do the same job; however, I had previous experience working with children and the required schooling for the job (an associate degree), and Sara, who had no prior experience, had to go through a 2-day training (she did not have any degree other than a high school diploma) in order to get the job.

My theory is that Sara was hired at a higher wage because her mother (who happens to work in the district) is a very close friend of the principal who hired her. By the way, the other girl who was hired at the same time as Sara and me made the same pay as me. Like Sara, she too had to go through the 2-day training because she did not have the required associate degree.I know that this is ethically and morally wrong but is it legally wrong? How do I or should I approach the principal on this matter? She has a habit of lying about things… my feeling is that she will say she had nothing to do with it.

Signed, Ain’t Fair

DearĀ Ain’t Fair:

A company generally can and will pay individuals with equal qualifications, the same amount. However, companies may pay them differently for any or no reason. If there is a printed salary/wage schedule, most companies and school systems will adhere to the schedule very closely. In your question, you did not tell if you and your coworker were hired at the same rate. You did say that after three years of working that you learned that Sara was making more than you were. Perhaps Sara was hired at the same rate, but based on her work performance, she has moved to a higher rate of pay. It is my thought that you should check into the situation, for your own peace of mind, to determine if there has been an error made in your rate of pay.

Make an appointment with the person at the County School Superintendent’s office that handles personnel. Tell them you would like to verify your beginning rate of pay and annual raises since then. If this information reveals that no error has been made on your part, I would not pursuit it any further. I would not mention to the personnel director that you are making less than Sara. Many companies have very strict rules about discussing salary/rate of pay with fellow employees. Often employees are reprimanded if it is learned that they have done so.If there is a printed salary schedule that your employer did not follow and the company does not correct the situation, you may want to discuss the matter with the Labor Board over your jurisdiction. Best of luck to you, and thank you for your contribution to your school system.

Follow Up: This woman, I’ll call Mary, was hired in (originally) at a higher rate of pay than me or the other girl hired on at the same time.I am gathering from your response that there is nothing legally wrong with my school district doing this. I was told by personnel that they do adhere to a strict policy of hiring at the minimum rate for paraprofessionals (I was told that even if a para has a bachelors or masters degree they would be hired at the same minimum pay) however the board can make exceptions if individuals meet certain criteria. I have no idea what this criterion is; the person I spoke with said it depends. I have checked, and I started at the correct minimum pay and have got the regular raises they give everyone. Sara started out at a higher rate and I have no idea what criteria she might have meet. Can you answer this for me?

Is it legally wrong for my district to pay someone more money solely based on the fact that they know someone and that someone pulled strings to get them more money; as in my case the boss is good friends with her mother (who happens to work in the district)?You are right I need answers for my own peace of mind I really want to know what kind of district and boss I am working for!!!I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me!!!

Reply: Hello Again: Legally is a strong word. Yes, the school system can in all probabilities pay an individual whatever for any reason or no reason. If you feel you have been discriminated against for unequal pay for equal or better qualifications, contact the EEOC. (http://www.eeoc.gov/) They will listen to your situation and advise you if they feel you should pursue the matter. In Georgia the Department of Labor handles similar cases. Contact the Labor Board that has jurisdiction over your school district. They can give information and advise as well. If the situation gets “hot,” be prepared for retaliation from the school system. Best of luck.

Gerald Allen