Staffers Claimed a ‘Wall of Testosterone’ Stood Between Them
and Equal Pay
Separate but unequal treatment for employees of men’s and women’s
A recent court case may demonstrate that the pay gap between so-called
men’s work and women’s work is still a reality.
A trio of former coaches from the University of Tennessee (UT) sued the
school after learning that the employees of the women’s athletics
program weren’t paid on par with the employees of the men’s
The school recently agreed to settle the lawsuit rather than go to trial.
This case highlights some interesting examples of how institutional gender
discrimination can play out. Let’s take a look at what happened
at UT, and then discuss what it means to other employees who may be dealing
with unlawful sex discrimination.
Segregated Programs Hid Unfair Treatment
The women’s athletic program at UT was often cited as a positive
example of how to run female sports programs at a collegiate level.
Jenny Moshak, Heather Mason, and Collin Schlosser were all coaches in the
program and, by their accounts, they were generally quite happy with their jobs.
That sentiment changed in 2009 when the men’s and women’s athletic
departments merged. That’s when Moshak, Mason, and Schlosser learned
that their counterparts in the men’s program were often paid much
higher salaries. In some cases, employees in the men’s program commanded
higher wages even though they had less experience and inferior performance records.
For example, Mason discovered that her counterpart in the men’s program
made more than $100,000 more than she did.
Moshak, Mason, and Schlosser each filed internal complaints about unequal pay.
But compensation wasn’t the only problem.
With the consolidation of the athletics program, layoffs began. Fifteen
people were laid off, including 12 women and three men. Schlosser was
terminated. The remaining eight executive staff positions included only
one female, and the senior administrative staff consisted of 13 men and
only two women.
Mason and Moshak made it through the reduction-in-force, but life was far
Mason was terminated in May 2013.
Moshak claims that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a head training
position, which was given to her male counterpart. She alleges that the
school retaliated against her because she voiced her complaints. She was
demoted and relieved of her supervisory duties. She resigned in August 2013.
Moshak, Mason, and Schlosser sued. In their lawsuit, they claimed that
UT had “created a testosterone wall effectively prohibiting women
from earning equal pay and further denying plaintiffs the opportunity
to advance their careers by working in men's athletics ...”
They alleged that the reorganization of the athletic department “effectively
resulted in a mass demotion of females and staff working with female student-athletes,”
and that they were paid less for performing similar tasks because of their
gender or their associations with the university’s women’s teams.
The case was supposed to go to trial in April 2016, but UT decided to settle
before having to defend its actions in court. Moshak, Mason, and Schlosser
will split $750,000. However, the total settlement will likely top $1
million after attorneys’ fees are calculated.
This is not the first time UT has decided to settle a case stemming from
the women’s athletic program. In 2014, the school paid $320,000
to another former employee of that department who alleged that she was
terminated due to age and gender discrimination.
When Discrimination Is Hard to Prove
Let’s face it: companies that believe their entire pay structure
may suddenly be open to scrutiny are likely to want to deal with the situation
quickly and quietly. That’s why it’s not unusual for employees
who complain about pay to find themselves suddenly terminated for a supposedly
Plus, since regular staff members in most organizations generally do not
have information about employee compensation rates, it can be difficult
to pinpoint unequal treatment.
That’s why it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney if
you feel that you’ve been denied fair compensation, or treated unlawfully
in another way, due to your gender.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.