Thursday, August 30, 2001
EEOC Finds That County Violates Equal Pay Act With Two-Tier Structure in County Counsel’s Office
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has determined that Los Angeles County is violating the federal Equal Pay Act in employing a two-tier structure for attorneys and staff in the County Counsel’s Office, with men generally receiving higher pay and official county employment and women working instead for a county-run corporation while receiving lower salaries.
Olophius Perry of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office issued the determination on Aug. 16.
Lawyers for plaintiffs in two lawsuits against the county cited the determination yesterday and said it would add fuel to their fight for full back-pay and benefits for lawyers and staff who receive their paychecks from Auxiliary Legal Services Inc.
That suit, filed in 1999 after a county audit spotlighted the low office morale created by the differing treatment of county lawyers, has languished as the parties jockey over discovery and await rulings from appellate courts in cases with similar issues. Attorney Steven J. Kaplan of the law firm of Rottman-Kaplan in Beverly Hills said arguments were heard on Aug. 16 in a closely watched case that may have bearing on the county lawyers’ case.
A sex discrimination suit brought by Danna Hall, a trial attorney representing the county since 1986 is pending before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy.
An action that names county lawyer Robert Shiell as the lead plaintiff is currently pending before the Civil Service Commission. Instead of sex discrimination, the suit alleges a sham employment scheme is being used to deny employees benefits.
Other actions have since been filed against the county alleging similar “sham” payroll schemes. In 1999, three information service workers sued the county, alleging that they and at least 500 others were wrongfully denied county employee benefits.
County officials have sought to “convert” most ALS attorneys to full county employment. But most, like Hall, have been denied pension credit for the years they worked on the ALS payroll.
The 1998 audit found lower pay, older equipment, heavier workloads and poor morale among county lawyers who handle juveniles dependency cases.
The division of the office that handles juvenile dependency cases for the county has been widely seen as a “dumping ground” for lawyers who don’t work out well in other divisions, according to the management audit by Barrington-Wellesley Group, Inc. and Altman Weil.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company