The word “discrimination” hangs out in a bad neighborhood. It gets tossed around so loosely that we sometimes forget that discrimination is not always a bad thing. Treating employees differently is legal, as long as there is a legitimate reason for the differential treatment. So when an employee, (a.k.a. “the plaintiff”) alleges that he’s the victim of “discrimination” he might be right, and yet, lose his case. When an employee (plaintiff) alleges that he is paid less than others, he might be right…but not victorious in his lawsuit.
This is one of the lessons of the recent decision of the federal district court in Crain v. Judson ISD. Mr. Crain alleged that he was discriminated against and that he was paid less than other employees in the district. He was right about that. But his case broke down when the district provided the reasons for the differential treatment.
The best example of this was Mr. Crain’s comparison of himself with Ms. Beitel. Both were special education teachers. Mr. Crain had more years of experience, and yet he was paid less than Ms. Beitel. Mr. Crain alleged that this proved sex discrimination.
Nope. Mr. Crain’s total compensation was $55,450. Ms. Beitel made $55,750, despite the fact that he had 16 years of experience and she had only five. But the district produced evidence that explained the difference:
Mr. Crain Ms. Beitel
Base salary: $53,450 $50,750
Stipend: 2,000 2,000
Master’s degree: 1,500
Department Chair: 1,500
TOTAL: 55,450 55,750
Due to his greater experience Mr. Crain had a bigger base salary. They both received the $2000 stipend for teaching a particular special education class. But Ms. Beitel had a Master’s degree and served as department chair. So she made more than he did, and it had nothing to do with sex.
Mr. Crain’s sex discrimination claim was just one of many allegations he made against the district. There were also claims of racial discrimination and retaliatory actions by the district. However, the district marshaled strong evidence to refute every claim. As with the claim about Ms. Beitel, Mr. Crain was able to produce evidence that other employees were treated differently than he was, but the district consistently produced the legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons for differential treatment. Mr. Crain was not the victim of illegal discrimination or retaliation.
The case of Crain v. Judson ISD was decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on October 26, 2018. We found it at 2018 WL 5315219. I’m pleased to let you know that Craig Wood and Katie Payne from our firm’s San Antonio office represented the district on this one.
DAWG BONE: DISCRIMINATION’S NOT A BAD THING. DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RACE, SEX, DISABILITY, RELIGION OR AGE IS A BAD THING.