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Media Alerts - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J.
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September 29, 2014
  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J.
Headline: Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Equal Pay Act Case Against EEOC, Clarifying the Pleading Standard for Employment Discrimination Claims

Area of Law: Employment Law

Issue(s) Presented: Whether a claim under the Equal Pay Act is sufficiently pled without setting forth specific facts regarding job duties in the comparison jobs.

Brief Summary: The EEOC filed a complaint under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 against the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., alleging that female and male attorneys working there received unequal pay for performing equal work. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the EEOC had not alleged any facts supporting a comparison of actual attorney job duties, but had relied on broad facts about the comparison female and male attorneys, suggesting that they all had the same degree and they were all performing equal work. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under the Supreme Court's recent decisions regarding pleading standards, a complaint must allege enough facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Here, the EEOC - despite having conducted a three-year investigation prior to filing suit - had not alleged "a single nonconclusory fact supporting its assertion that the claimants' and comparators' jobs required 'substantially equal' skill and effort," dooming its complaint.
The full text of the opinion may be found at

Extended Summary: After a discrimination claim filed by a female attorney in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's law department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") began an investigation into the Port Authority's pay practices. After three years, the EEOC filed a complaint against the Port Authority, asserting that the Port Authority paid its female and male nonsupervisory attorneys unequal wages for equal work, in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The complaint charged that nonsupervisory attorneys all shared the same job code, the same amount of required effort and skill, and the same working conditions. Despite this, female attorneys were paid less than male attorneys.
The district court, skeptical that the EEOC had adequately pled a claim, ordered the EEOC to answer Port Authority's interrogatories on the issue. In answering, the EEOC presented a chart on fourteen female nonsupervisory claimants and their comparators, detailing dates of bar admission, dates of service with the Port Authority, salaries, and divisions. The district court found this chart to be superficially random at best, and the EEOC position that "an attorney is an attorney" did not give rise to a reasonable inference that the attorneys' jobs required substantially equal work. The district court thus granted judgment in favor of the Port Authority.

On review, the Second Circuit noted the unsettled pleading standard for discrimination claims in the Circuit. In Swierkiewicz v. Sorema (2002), the Supreme Court held that an employment discrimination complaint need not set forth "specific facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination" to survive a motion to dismiss. However, The Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Iqbal later clarified the proper Rule 8 standard that a complaint had to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." The Second Circuit concluded that Swierkiewicz is still good law in the sense that discrimination complaints need not allege facts establishing each element of a prima facie discrimination claim. However, the baseline Twombly standard still applies: enough nonconclusory facts must be alleged to push the claim from conceivable to plausible.

With that standard clarified, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. The court agreed with the District Court that broad generalizations drawn from job titles, classifications, or divisions, and conclusory allegations of sex discrimination were not enough to bring a successful EPA claim which depends on comparison of actual job content. As pled, the EEOC complaint only suggested the possibility - rather than the plausibility - of an EPA violation.

Panel: Circuit Judges Livingston and Droney; District Judge Chen, sitting by designation.

Argument Date: 05/27/2014

Argument Location: New York

Date of Issued Opinion: 09/29/2014

Docket Number: No. 13-2705-cv

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Justin J. Fung

Counsel: Julie L. Gantz (P. David Lopez, Lorraine C. Davis, and Daniel T. Vail on the brief), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington D.C., for Plaintiff-appellant.

Rosemary Alito (George Peter Barbatsuly on the brief), K&L Gates LLP, Newark, New Jersey, for Defendant-appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Livingston

Circuit: 2nd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Emily Gold Waldman

    Posted By: Emily Waldman @ 09/29/2014 08:39 PM     2nd Circuit  

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