EEOC v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, No. 13-2705 (2d Cir. Sept. 29, 2014): The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that non-supervisory attorneys at the Port Authority were paid less than their male counterparts. In doing so, the court held that the EEOC had not sufficiently alleged that the groups performed equal work because the agency failed to allege any facts concerning the attorneys’ actual job duties.

The EEOC conducted a three-year investigation into pay practices of the Port Authority, which led the agency to file suit on behalf of a class of female lawyers for Equal Pay Act (EPA) violations. The EEOC alleged that the Port Authority’s female attorneys were paid less than similarly situated male attorneys with the same “job code” and that the disparity could not be explained by any factors other than sex.  

In support of its claim, the EEOC stated that all of the attorney positions required the same skill, effort, and responsibility, but failed to make any allegations regarding actual job content. As the Second Circuit summarized, the EEOC’s position hinged on its argument that “an attorney is an attorney is an attorney” regardless of their actual work. The Second Circuit disagreed and held that this was insufficient to state a claim under the EPA as the allegations “did not touch upon the attorneys’ actual job duties and thus could not give rise to an inference that the attorneys’ jobs required ‘substantially equal’ work.” 

In reaching this decision, the Second Circuit held that the Twombly/Iqbal pleading standard requires that an “EPA claim must include ‘sufficient factual matter, accepted as true’ to permit ‘the reasonable inference’ that the relevant employees’ job content was ‘substantially equal.’” Because the EEOC failed to allege any non-conclusory facts that supported its assertion that the jobs required substantially equal skill and effort, the EEOC failed to meet this pleading burden and dismissal was affirmed. 

Based on this precedent, a generalized comparison of jobs without any facts regarding specific job duties will be insufficient to state an EPA claim. Employers defending EPA suits should therefore carefully determine whether the initial pleading requirement has been met.