Federal authorities have compelled a winter recreational machine manufacturer north of the Twin Cities to pay a female welder $20,000 for paying four men more for doing the same work.
Connie Kitterman, 56, started working for SnoBear USA of Isanti in August 2016, but the men — all hired after her — were paid up to $2 more per hour.
Kitterman, of Cambridge, Minn., complained to management "but was told the men were not paid much more than her, and nothing changed," read the lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on her behalf in December 2018.
Terms of the settlement are included in what is called a consent decree, which allows SnoBear to bring the case to a conclusion without acknowledging guilt.
A message left Monday with an attorney for SnoBear seeking comment about the settlement was not returned.
The suit pointed out that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act make pay discrimination based on gender illegal. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis after the EEOC first attempted to reach a settlement through its conciliation process.
The agency announced last week that SnoBear, which makes mobile fish houses and other vehicles, has agreed to settle the suit and will pay $20,000 to Kitterman. Back pay accounts for $4,000 of the amount, with the balance for damages.
The company also agreed to act to prevent future pay discrimination in its workplace, train managers on the applicable law and track pay by job title and gender and turn over the data to the EEOC.
According to the lawsuit, Kitterman's starting pay was $14 an hour. Three men hired after her started at $16 an hour and another at $15 an hour.
Kitterman said Monday that she quit in August 2018 at $14.40 an hour after finding a new job doing similar work at a higher wage.
"It was really ridiculous," Kitterman said about the pay predicament at SnoBear. "[Management] there would say we're going to do your [job] review soon, soon, soon," when her pay would be up for discussion.
"But they never did," she said.
Greg Gochanour, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago, said the settlement, "in addition to compensating [Kitterman], … will allow the EEOC to continue to monitor compliance for an extended period of time. We expect that by ensuring pay equity, the decree will also help SnoBear attract the most qualified workforce without regard to gender."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482