Canada-based Vice Media has agreed to settle claims brought by current and former employees that the company systemically underpaid female employees. Vice will pay $1.875 million to settle the class action.
According to reports, a former channel and project manager brought an initial claim in the suit against Vice. In 2015, she says she hired a male project manager for a joint project. She subsequently learned that this male subordinate was making about $25,000 more per year than she was.
After that, she complained, the man she hired rose quickly through the ranks, leaving her behind despite similarities in age and work experience. It was allegedly explained that he was a "good personality fit" for certain male clients.
After the former manager brought her claim, a number of others with similar claims joined and the suit became a proposed class action.
Dispute over statistics would have been costly to try in court
As part of the litigation, Vice agreed to provide anonymized salary data going back to 2012. The plaintiff's statistician pegged the overall gender pay gap to between $7 million and $9,740,000.
Vice disputed the statistician's findings, arguing that the age of each employee should have been factored into the calculation. If that had been done, Vice says, the pay disparity dropped to "well below" one million dollars. It is likely because of this factual dispute that the parties agreed to settle.
Vice acknowledges that it sometimes relied on salary history to set wages
Many advocates for equal pay have pointed out that relying on salary history when setting a new employee's salary can serve to lock in whatever inequities the employee has experienced in the past. If the worker faced gender discrimination in the past and it affected her salary, that past illegality would be reflected in any future salaries.
Vice denies that using salary history to set pay rates was a centralized practice. Asking applicants about pay history is now illegal in California, New York and several other states.
"Vice's new management team is committed to maintaining a workplace where all employees are compensated equitably," said a spokesperson after the settlement. "This is why we provided our employees with the results of the company's pay equity analysis, and have also settled the Rose case whereby we resolve any claimed historical disparities."
Vice is also working to resolve claims that it has allowed a toxic work environment for female employees.
Vice says that salary decisions were made individually during a time of rapid expansion. If your organization is experiencing rapid expansion, what steps have you taken to ensure you're complying with equal pay laws?