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Shana Maron and the university reached the accord rather than go through a third trial.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Virginia Tech has paid $155,000 to settle a former employee’s claim that she faced retaliation for complaints about gender-based pay discrimination.
While denying that there was retaliation, the university last month paid Shana Maron $55,000 and her attorneys $100,000, according to a settlement agreement released Tuesday.
Both sides shared a desire to end the case rather than hold a third trial that was scheduled this fall, the agreement said.
The payments ended a federal Equal Pay Act lawsuit that Maron filed in November 2008, shortly after her resignation following two and a half years in development work for the Blacksburg university.
Maron was an assistant director in the Office of University Development and later moved to the development office at Tech’s College of Engineering. Among her original claims, she said she was offered $48,000 a year for a position previously held by a man whose starting salary had been $68,500.
The trial evidence, presented to juries in 2011 and 2012 in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, included detailed testimony of how much money men and women made in fundraising positions at the university. According to the testimony, men with fundraising duties made 8 percent to 15 percent more than women doing the same work. The paychecks of 44 employees were analyzed and reanalyzed in compensation studies prepared for the lawsuit.
At the end of the first trial, the jury awarded Maron $25,000 to close a pay gap and $61,000 for retaliation for complaining. It also awarded Getra Hanes, another woman who joined Maron’s suit, $15,000 to close her pay gap.
Judge James Turk threw out the 2011 verdicts, saying they were unsupported by the evidence.
Turk dismissed the retaliation claim and granted a new trial on the pay issue. In that proceeding, a different jury appeared to accept Tech’s argument that differences in work experience were the driving factor in pay differences between the men and women, and ruled for the university.
Still, the lawsuit churned along for an additional 19 and a half months, ending last week after an appellate court reinstated Maron’s retaliation claim.
Her retaliation contentions — still pending at the time of the settlement — concerned her allegations of mistreatment by the university. She said that a vice president administered harsh verbal warnings including a threat to terminate her employment, that the university set an unrealistic performance benchmark and that the school tried to replace her while she was out on sick leave, according to a January 2013 appellate ruling. Tech said that she at most suffered “petty slights” and that the evidence was conflicting, the ruling said.
Last week, the parties told the court they had settled the issue. The seven-page agreement is signed by university President Charles Steger.
University spokesman Larry Hincker released the agreement under the state open records act. Maron’s attorney declined to comment.
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