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Law School Case Brief

County of Wash. v. Gunther - 452 U.S. 161, 101 S. Ct. 2242 (1981)

Rule:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a), makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's sex. The Bennett Amendment to Title VII, codified at 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(h), however, provides that it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for any employer to differentiate upon the basis of sex in determining the amount of wages or compensation paid or to be paid to employees of such employer if such differentiation is authorized by the provisions of the Equal Pay Act, codified at 29 U.S.C.S. § 206(d)

Facts:

The female prison guards filed an action against the county under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(h), alleging that they were paid unequal wages for work substantially equal to that performed by male guards. The female guards contended that part of the pay differential was attributable to intentional sex discrimination. The lower court held that the female guards' jobs were not substantially equal to those of the male guards and that the female guards were not entitled to equal pay. The lower court further found, however, that the female guards were not precluded from suing under Title VII to protest discriminatory compensation practices merely because their jobs were not equal to higher paying jobs held by members of the opposite sex.

Issue:

Did the court err in deciding that the female prison guards were not precluded from suing the county to protest discriminatory compensation practices

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

It was held that (1) the Bennett Amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not restrict Title VII's prohibition of sex-based wage discrimination to claims of equal pay for equal work, and therefore claims of sex-based wage discrimination can be brought under Title VII even though no member of the opposite sex holds an equal but higher-paying job, provided that the challenged wage rate does not come within the Equal Pay Act's affirmative defenses applicable to wage rates based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or "any other factor other than sex," and (2) the female guards' claim that their wages were depressed because of intentional sex discrimination was accordingly not precluded by the Bennett Amendment merely because the female guards did not perform work equal to that of the male guards.

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