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State worker sues, claims gender bias

State worker sues, claims gender bias

A Saratoga County woman this week filed a federal lawsuit alleging gender-based pay discrimination a

A Saratoga County woman this week filed a federal lawsuit alleging gender-based pay discrimination against her employer, the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. She’s claiming that she has been paid less than her male counterparts to do the same duties.

Patricia Corbett-Ward, who filed the suit in U.S. District Court, has worked for the office in the position of staff development specialist since September 2006. She works in Albany County.

Corbett-Ward served as the lowest-level specialist but constantly performed the duties of the next level up, the suit says.

In the suit, she cites three men who hold that next level title and receive the accompanying pay increase. Two of those men were hired in 2008, two years after she started performing the increased duties.

The actual duties performed by Corbett-Ward and the three men were the same, the suit says.

“It’s a pretty clear case of a violation of the Equal Pay Act,” Corbett-Ward’s attorney, Nathaniel Charny, said Friday. “It’s the same work for less pay and the only difference is she’s a woman.”

A representative of OASAS on Friday said they have yet to be served with the suit. If they are served, the spokesperson said in a statement, “we will respond accordingly.”

The suit also cites two supervisors as defendants.

The suit comes about four years after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. That act changed the statute of limitations for such cases, tying the statute to each new paycheck, not the date of hire.

Charny said Friday that Corbett-Ward’s suit could have been filed without the Ledbetter act. But, he said, it helps as she can seek some damages she wouldn’t have been able to previously.

Total damages sought are not specified in the suit.

According to the suit, the lower-level staff development specialist works under the supervision of the higher-level ones and assists in developing courses for addictions-training staff, reviewing training evaluation data and providing technical assistance to trainers.

The next level up serves as a leader in development of those programs, organizes and delivers the training courses as well as supervises lower-level staff.

Corbett-Ward began complaining in May 2008 that she was doing the same work for less pay, but OASAS did nothing.

In April 2012, Corbett-Ward filed a grievance, which was sustained in July. In August, the state Governor’s Office of Employee Relations ordered OASAS to stop assigning her the higher-level duties.

As a result of the grievance, Corbett-Ward alleges, she was singled out for additional supervision and scrutiny. Finally, in October, her duties were reduced to simply answering the office phone, she says.

Corbett-Ward is seeking damages for violations of the Equal Pay Act and for retaliation.

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