By Patricia Minichiello
A woman who said she wasn’t paid the same as a man, is fighting a bid to have the case thrown out.
In the case of former Rutland County Deputy State’s Attorney Jane O’Neill claiming gender bias and unequal pay, a 25-page response to a motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed recently in federal court.
“The Equal Pay Act ‘prohibits employers from discriminating among employees on the basis of sex by paying higher wages to employees of the opposite sex for equal work,’” wrote John Paul Faignant, O’Neill’s attorney, in his response.
In the motion to dismiss, Assistant Attorney General Bartholomew Gengler, representing the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, wrote that the lawsuit should be dismissed under the 11th amendment.
The 11th amendment says that citizens cannot sue states in federal courts.
Faignant responded by writing, “the Vermont Supreme Court has decided that the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s Office is a county municipality with employees … As such, the Defendants themselves have conceded the Eleventh Amendment does not afford them immunity from the Plaintiff’s claims.”
Former Rutland County Deputy State’s Attorney Jane O’Neill filed a lawsuit in July alleging she was paid $14,000 less a year than a male colleague who was hired for the same job two years after she was hired.
The lawsuit claims James P. Mongeon, former executive director of the Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, set her salary at entry level and told her that her wages were not negotiable.
O’Neill raised questions about her compensation to Marc Brierre, former state’s attorney, and Brierre refused to answer them, the lawsuit claims.
One question she asked was whether “John Doe” — a male identified as performing equal work and getting paid 26 percent more per year than O’Neill — was getting paid the same as she was.
“On at least two occasions, Rutland County State’s Attorney Marc Brierre lost his temper over Ms. O’Neill’s pressing him as to her pay status, to the point where Ms. O’Neill believed State’s Attorney Marc Brierre would fire her if she pressed further,” the lawsuit states.
By the end of July 2014, O’Neill resigned due to an intolerable workplace, according to the lawsuit.
O’Neill worked for the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s office from 2009 to 2014 as deputy state’s attorney. Her lawsuit is an employment discrimination case brought under the Equal Pay Act.
In addition to the discrepancy in pay, O’Neill alleges she worked on average 50 to 60 hours a week and was on call one weekend a month from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. and did not receive any additional pay.
A hearing on the state’s motion to dismiss and O’Neill’s response is scheduled for Oct. 12 in Burlington.
Patricia Minichiello is a freelance reporter and editor of vtpresspass.com. She can be reached at [email protected]
By Patricia Minichiello