City of Albuquerque tries to decertify a class action lawsuit for gender pay equity

The city of Albuquerque filed a motion last week to try to prevent a class action lawsuit alleging discrimination on grounds of gender pay.

Approximately 600 women joined four original plaintiffs in 2020 in a class action lawsuit to appeal for alleged discrimination on the basis of gender pay. The original four plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2018.

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Plaintiffs attorney Alexandra Freedman Smith said wage inequality is so significant that plaintiffs in some cases claim there is a $ 7 an hour difference between what men and women are paid for the same job. Freedman Smith said some of the women owe around $ 100,000 because of the wage gap.

The state passed the Fair Wages for Women Act in 2013, which made it illegal for both private and public employers to pay women less than men for equal work that requires the same skills, effort and responsibility and is carried out under similar working conditions.

The only exceptions are seniority, earnings, or when income is measured by the quantity or quality of production.

Freedman Smith said the alleged gender pay discrimination affects more than just salaries. This also affects overtime pay and pensions.

“It’s a huge impact over time in terms of lost wages, overtime and retirement,” said Freedman Smith. “The women who work for the City of Albuquerque deserve better under this administration. You deserve the legally allowed pay. “

Albuquerque prosecutors said they were unable to comment on ongoing litigation but added:

“The current administration has been at the forefront of the struggle for equal pay for years, including leading the first nationwide study on equal pay in the State Auditor’s Office, and is now continuing to promote fairness.”

In his role as state auditor, Keller prepared a report on the gender pay gap between industries in 2017. At the time he criticized the then government. Susana Martinez, because she did not record the gender-specific pay rates of government agencies and government providers.

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The city of Albuquerque announced last week that it will partner with Bernalillo County and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority to promote gender equality among the contractors it does business with by offering an incentive. Freedman Smith described the initiative as hypocritical.

“It is especially egregious (Mayor Tim Keller’s office) when we said we want fair pay for women by giving preference to contractors who pay men and women equally. Mayor Keller must lead by example instead of fighting the women who work for him and steadfastly denying them what the law is supposed to pay them, ”Freedman Smith told NM Political Report.

The policy, which went into effect on Monday, means businesses can get a 5 percent preference when trying to win a contract to do business with any of the three government agencies if they can prove that men and women do the do the same or a similar job, the same wages are paid.

A spokeswoman for Keller’s office, Sarah Wheeler, called the initiative “important” in an email to the New Mexico Political Report.

“We have to use every tool in our toolbox to close the equal pay gap. This important step in closing the equal pay gap with companies competing for government contracts will have a positive impact on our entire region. The competitive conditions will only be even if women, and especially women of skin color, earn fair wages compared to their colleagues, ”wrote Wheeler. “No contractor is certified to the zero percent wage gap standard, which shows how important it is for all of us to take every possible step.”

But Freedman Smith said the city offering a 5 percent provision to contractors who pay fair for both sexes didn’t necessarily mean those contractors would get the offer. She said that since it was illegal to pay women less for the same work, she believed the city of Albuquerque should refuse to do business with contractors who do not pay their female workers as their male workers do the same work.

“Don’t hire companies that don’t obey the law and lead by example by following the law yourself,” said Freedman Smith.

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