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"You've gone too far, baby..." says the Court of Appeals

In the 1970s, cigarette manufacturers attempted to market a new design aimed at women with the phrase "You've come a long way, baby."  Well, apparently, we've not come as far as Sandra Rock believed.  Rock sued her employer, V.W.Kaiser Engineering, Inc., for constructive discharge, claiming that she was treated differently than other "similarly-situated" male employees.  The problem was, she couldn't identify any other male employees whose employment record was similar to her own.

Rock's complaint boiled down to the fact that she took a cut in pay to transfer to a different department within the company, and she felt the company took too long to restore her wage level.  She also complained of the fact that she earned less in the Production Department than some employees who had been with the company for less time than her.  The Court was not impressed with her attorney's arguments.

First, it pointed out that she requested a transfer from shipping to production after encountering "personal issues" with co-workers in shipping.  She was told she would have to take a pay cut because she was not trained in production, and also told that "she would never be paid more than the 'guy' working on the machine next to her."  The Court emphasized that she agreed to the transfer and that she was ultimately paid more than the man who trained her in production, despite the fact that he had been in the shop nine months longer than she had.   Also, she did not identify any male production worker who was earning more than she was.  The Court also emphasized that pay within the company was not based upon company seniority alone.

The sole male employee whom Plaintiff identified as "similarly situated" was a man who was transferred from production to shipping "as needed," and who did not experience a cut in pay.  The court found this analogy unpersuasive, since the male employee's transfer was temporary and at the request of the company, not to a department he requested and where he would require substantial training.  The lower court's dismissal of Rock's claim was upheld.

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