EEOC and Rolls-Royce and Discrimination and Lawsuits and Law and Manufacturing & Technology and Diversity

Female engineers appeal discrimination ruling

October 25, 2010

Two female engineers who pursued a gender-discrimination case against Rolls-Royce Corp. over the past four years intend to appeal a judge's decision in the company's favor.

Attorneys for Sally Randall and Rona Pepmeier filed a notice of appeal on Oct. 20, about a month after U.S. District Judge Sara Evans Barker ruled against them in the case. In March, Barker denied the women's request for class-action status on their claims of unequal pay.

Randall and Pepmeier's attorney, Sandra Blevins of Betz & Associates, could not be reached for comment.

Randall, director of quality systems and assurance for Rolls-Royce North America, has been with the company since it was Detroit Diesel Allison and holds a master's degree in thermal science, according to Barker's Sept. 22 ruling. Pepmeier, who holds a master's degree in industrial engineering, is a continuous-improvement consultant and previously held the title of operations director.

The two filed suit May 26, 2006, after separate incidents of perceived discrimination. Randall was passed over for promotions to chief engineer and vice president. Pepmeier and several of her male colleagues were demoted in a company re-organization, and she also was denied access to a performance-based bonus program.

The women tried to show a pattern of pay discrimination, but Barker ruled that their expert's statistical analysis failed to show a gender-based disparity. “Further, plaintiff's expert conspicuously failed to include all the relevant factors affecting the amount of compensation paid to Rolls-Royce management employees, including Randall and Pepmeier.”

Barker ruled in favor of Rolls-Royce on the women's individual claims because their jobs weren't exactly like those of their male colleagues.

Only two of Randall's male colleagues worked in the same unit and were at her same salary grade from 2003 to 2007, and she earned more than one of them. Randall's male counterpart who out-earned her did so by $55 for a total salary of $143,220. This was according to a pay chart submitted by the plaintiffs, Barker noted in her order.

Although Pepmeier's pay was consistently at the low end of the salary range compared with her male counterparts, each manager was responsible for different products, overseeing different-size budgets and different numbers of employees. In addition, Barker noted that each of the men had worked for Rolls-Royce at least 10 years longer than Pepmeier.

Pepmeier had filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August 2005, following an internal investigation of an incident where former Chief Operating Officer Steve Dwyer dressed her down over performance issues. Pepmeier believed her subsequent exclusion from the performance-based bonus program was retaliation for her complaints, but Barker ruled there was no evidence to show that individual decision-makers knew of her complaints, or that her exclusion was gender-based.

Tony Prather, the Barnes and Thornburg attorney representing Rolls-Royce, said he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. A company spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment late Friday.

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