CERES -- Two key witnesses in a trial over gender equity Friday said equal pay for equal work is the law of the land, but not always the reality in Modesto's City Hall.
The first, Deputy Finance Director Cheryl Detmar, said she agrees with the city's former equal opportunity officer, who wrote a report in 2002 that said women in her department lagged behind on the pay scale, even when they took on duties that are equivalent to those of their male counterparts.
She noted that the study, which the city tried to suppress during pretrial litigation in two lawsuits brought by female em- ployees, did not see the light of day until 2004.
"When you might have done something that's not quite by the book, you're not real eager to go out and share it," Detmar told the court.
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Jurors also heard from the author of that report, Jason Mauga, who testified through a videotaped deposition because he is on active duty in the Army.
He said the city issued back pay to some female employees who took on extra duties, but did not reclassify their positions or bring the pay of two female supervisors up to the level of a male supervisor whose job required the same amount of skill, effort and responsibility.
"That's why we're here," said Mauga, who concluded that the city had violated the state's Equal Pay Act.
Attorneys for the women began presenting their case earlier this week in Stanislaus County Superior Court and the trial is expected to fill Judge William Mayhew's satellite courtroom in Ceres during the coming weeks.
Another lawsuit settled for $3.25M
Jo Ann Bertolotti, Leslie Curtin and Lori Martinez are seeking $237,000 in back wages, plus interest. Six men and six women on the jury likely will be asked to punish the city by awarding damages as well. Nearly a year ago, the women offered to settle for $600,000; the case proceeded to trial.
The city settled another lawsuit brought by three other female employees in March for $3.25 million.
Budget officer Debra Eggerman, solid waste division manager Jocelyn Reed and solid waste specialist Karin Rodriguez alleged that they were passed over at promotion time and denied salaries equal to men in comparable positions. The settlement did not include an admission of wrongdoing.
The case involving the Finance Department revolves around two main issues: whether Bertolotti and Curtin, who worked as customer service supervisors, deserve the same pay as a male counterpart who worked as a purchasing officer; and whether Martinez deserves back pay for working as the acting purchasing officer for four years.
Detmar said she was present when former Finance Director Robert Stout promised Martinez the purchasing officer job to keep her from leaving the city for a job at California State University, Stanislaus.
Stout filled that position with a man who got higher marks in a competitive application process. That left a bitter taste.
"She was made a promise by her director," said Detmar, who settled an inequity claim of her own out of court. "If you cannot believe what you are told by your employer, who do you believe?"
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