A Winning Case from Our San Jose Employment Lawyer
Lynne Coates is a San Jose employment lawyer who was formerly employed by Farmers Insurance, a company that employs hundreds of employees during claims disputes. Coates was hired by the company in 1993 and continued to work there for five years until taking another position. In 2010, she returned to the insurance company for another five years as a San Jose employment attorney. The attorney experienced a sharp change in job satisfaction when she discovered that a male employee with less work experience was earning more than she was. According to Coates, an offhand remark led to the realization that her male colleague was earning $102,000 per year, while she was earning $99,000. The income disparity became even more egregious when factoring in the considerable difference between the two attorneys’ experience.
The event led the female San Jose employment lawyer to investigate whether the pay difference was an isolated event or a systemic issue. She discovered that other female colleagues were also receiving less pay than their male counterparts for the same work, including one female attorney who was earning only $68,000 despite her four-year history with the company. Over the course of her investigation, Coates discovered that her trial partner, who had been practicing for approximately the same time, earned a significantly higher salary of between $150,000 and $200,000. After taking some time to consider the proper course of action, Coates complained to her supervisor. After one month, the supervisor informed her that her salary would not be adjusted. After the report, she explained that her job responsibilities were adjusted to the point where she was unofficially demoted and removed from her regular duties. She was no longer allowed to make court appearances, depose important witnesses, or have involvement in company mediations. The demotion was a humiliating one, according to the experienced attorney, who found herself removed from aspects of her career with no justification.
In August 2014, she left her position and filed a federal lawsuit against the company eight months later. She alleged both that Farmers Insurance paid her less than male colleagues of comparable or lesser experience and retaliated against her for filing a complaint. The attorney’s new employer, a medical malpractice firm, has expressed support for her position. Coates’s attorney agrees that men are given more career opportunities and promotion throughout the legal industry. Three new plaintiffs were added to the case in June 2015, including two current employees of Farmers in Los Angeles. All four attorneys involved in the case hope to file a class action lawsuit that may include hundreds of women who worked for or continue to work for Farmers Insurance. The attorneys hope they can persuade a judge to certify the lawsuit as a class action. If they succeed, it might grow to include hundreds of women. The Farmers Insurance spokesperson told the media that he was unable to comment on the pending litigation, but the company has hired an outside law firm to handle the case.
The Bigger Picture
The Farmers Insurance case raises larger issues regarding gender equality within the legal profession. Although nearly half of all law school graduates are women, there is a notable lack of female equity partners at large firms. Many women report being bullied by male colleagues who take credit for finding new clients, and women are severely underrepresented on compensation committees. Pay inequality between male and female attorneys is a top issue in the legal field, according to the executive director of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Some critics may suggest that the pay gap between men and women is natural because women often take time off to raise children, but one UC Hastings law professor challenges that idea. Even after controlling for such variables as maternal leave, women and people of color are still paid significantly less across the board. Those who come forward to speak about such inequalities are lauded, especially since speaking out can result in a lack of professional references to use in the future as well as other negative consequences. Social science has long noted that women who attempt to negotiate higher salaries are often punished merely for asking. Not only are their attempts unlikely to be affected but they may lower their status in the workplace as well. The potential class action lawsuit against Farmers Insurance may be a crucial first step towards shining light on gender-based discrimination in the legal field.
Contact a San Jose Employment Lawyer
When it comes to filing a lawsuit for discrimination, it can be difficult to know where to begin. In many cases, women who speak up about income inequality in the workplace face negative consequences that damage their career. It is not uncommon for women to earn significantly less than their male counterparts, even among those who have significantly more company experience. While some factors, such as maternity leave, may be used to argue that income inequality is normal, they cannot account for all cases of workplace discrimination. Whether this income inequality occurs at a manufacturing company or a law firm, the results of discrimination can lead to severe financial consequences and may even damage your career. One potential type of damages that you may expect to receive after filing a discrimination lawsuit is compensation for unfairly lost wages. It may be difficult to prove that you were entitled to a higher figure than you received, since some companies and firms do not allow employees to speak candidly about their salaries. However, a pattern of discriminatory pay structures, as alleged in the Farmers Insurance case, may help bolster your claims. A San Jose employment attorney may be able to make a case that you are eligible for compensation due to career progress that was lost as punishment for questioning unfair payment practices. If you are a woman who has received unfair pay due to discrimination, contact the Costanzo Law Firm for assistance today at (408) 993-8493. A San Jose employment lawyer may be able to help you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.