When it comes to Equal Pay Act claims, qualifications and experience count. On Warren & Associates’ Our Blog, Sindy Warren discusses a Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against a female applications engineer whose employer prevailed because the court determined the plaintiff’s male counterparts were more qualified.

Warren says plaintiff Nicole Foco alleged her three male coworker applications engineers were paid more than she was. In addition, she argued that when she took on account management responsibilities, three male account managers also got a higher salary. Warren says the trial court dismissed Foco’s claims, finding “the engineers had significantly more work experience than Foco did,” and the account managers “had superior qualifications, experience, and produced far more revenue for the employer.”

The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Warren says the court explained that Equal Pay Act claims require the plaintiff to show workers of the opposite sex got higher wages for equal work or received more money for work requiring the same level of skill, effort and responsibility. Although the jobs don’t have to be identical, they must be “substantially equal,” she says.

Warren suggests that employers review pay and salary practices, ensuring that any disparities between genders can be justified should an equal pay claim be filed.