South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Unequal Pay May Be Justified By Different Work Output
Description

Appeals court accepted the explanation of a car repair shop that a white employee was paid almost double the pay of a Hispanic employee because the pay was based on the quantity of repair work performed per hour.

Topic

Employment Discrimination

Key Words

National Origin Discrimination; Unequal Pay; Pretext

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

At three different times, Quinones worked as a technician for Houser Buick. He was always under the supervision of O’Connor, the collision repair manager. Quinones asked to be paid on a flat rate pay scale rather than on an hourly basis. He learned that his pay, of $30,000 per year compared poorly to another employee, Barnes, who was paid a flat rate of $52,000 per year. He sued, contending that the reason for the pay difference was based on his Hispanic origin. Houser defended that the flat rate system is complex and allows employees who are highly productive to earn much more as pay is computed for each specific repair job completed. Quinones worked slowly; Barnes worked quickly and did high quality work. The district court held that Houser offered a nondiscriminatory reason for the pay differential and held for defendant. Quinones appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. After Quinones established the prima facie basis for his complaint, the burden shifted to Houser to offer a legitimate rationale for its action. Houser did so; different employees work at different speeds and abilities. Their pay is based on measures of their work output. This is a nondiscriminatory reason for the pay differential. It was accepted by the trial court as more than a pretext for the alleged discrimination.

Citation

Quinones v. Houser Buick, 436 F.3d 284 (1st Cir., 2006)

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