Modesto asks judge to toss pay-bias verdict

CERES -- A jury spoke in mid November, but the city of Modesto didn't like what the panel had to say, so a lawyer Friday asked a judge to throw out a verdict that said two women who work in the Finance Department should get $189,109 in back pay because they did not get equal pay for equal work.

That request left plaintiffs Jo Ann Bertolotti and Leslie Curtin, who prevailed at the close of a monthlong trial this fall, wondering just what it would take to win.

"I felt like we had some sense of closure when the jury reached a verdict," Curtin said. "And we're back today and we're still waiting."

Arguments before Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge William Mayhew revolved around technical points that had been discussed before the case went to trial -- including the legal standard that should apply and whether the women filed their claim in a timely fashion.

Attorney Shelline Bennett of Fresno, who represents the city, said evidence presented during the trial does not support the verdict because the women compared their work to that of a male man- ager who had different duties.

Attorney Gary Goyette of Gold River, who represents the women, said the city failed to follow the California Equal Pay Act and its own policies when it paid the women less than a male co-worker with comparable duties.

In 2002, the city's equal opportunity officer concluded that the women were underpaid. The city issued back pay to Bertolotti and Curtin, but their wages still fell short of the male supervisor's salary.

The verdict comes on the heels of a $3.25 million settlement with three women in the city's solid waste division who alleged that they were passed over at promotion time and denied salaries equal to men in comparable positions.

Mayhew, who presides in a satellite courtroom in Ceres, said he will issue a written ruling in the coming weeks.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.

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