Manufacturer Not Insulated From Charges It Underpaid Latina Supervisor

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By Kevin McGowan

A New Mexico insulation manufacturer will pay $60,000 to settle charges lodged by the EEOC that it unlawfully discriminated against a Hispanic female supervisor by paying her less than a male employee doing the same job and by barring her from speaking Spanish on the job ( EEOC v. Kevothermal, LLC , D.N.M., No. 16-852, consent decree entered 12/30/16 ).

The Dec. 30 settlement with Kevothermal LLC is notable because it combines two of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s top enforcement priorities: combating the gender pay gap and preventing national origin discrimination.

The agency recently issued new enforcement guidance on national origin bias that included a warning against employers’ use of overly restrictive English-only policies.

The Obama administration’s efforts to reduce the gender pay gap spurred the EEOC’s completed plan to collect employers’ summary pay data categorized by sex, race and ethnicity beginning in March 2018.

Must Address Pay Disparities

Kevothermal, a vacuum insulation panel manufacturer, will pay the settlement to Gilda Guerra, a former production supervisor who the EEOC alleged was paid less than a male supervisor performing the same job duties.

Guerra had trained the higher-paid male employee, the EEOC said in its complaint filed in July.

The settlement requires Kevothermal to determine if any employee in its Albuquerque facility is being paid less than an employee of the opposite sex who is performing the same job.

If so, then Kevothermal must “immediately remedy the disparity” by increasing the salary of the lower-paid employee and providing back pay to that worker, the court-approved consent decree provides.

Kevothermal also must review its anti-discrimination policy and revise it, if necessary, to conform with federal and state anti-bias laws, the decree provides. The company must provide equal employment opportunity training to all its employees on at least an annual basis.

Kevothermal must ensure its policy explains to employees how to report suspected discrimination and includes anti-retaliation protections for employees who make bias complaints, the EEOC said.

No Admission of Liability

Kevothermal denies the EEOC’s allegations and doesn’t admit any liability under the Equal Pay Act or Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by agreeing to the settlement.

The EEOC alleged Kevothermal instructed Guerra not to speak Spanish on the production floor, even though it was part of her job to do so. Guerra as a supervisor previously had translated work-related instructions for employees who spoke only Spanish, the agency said.

Kevothermal’s enforcement of a “restrictive” English-only policy violated Title VII, the EEOC alleged.

Attorneys representing Kevothermal didn’t respond to Bloomberg BNA’s requests for comment Jan. 3.

Judge M. Christina Armijo of the federal district court in New Mexico approved the consent decree.

EEOC attorneys in Phoenix and Albuquerque represented the commission. Littler Mendelson PC represented Kevothermal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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