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Three female investigators can proceed with a suit charging that the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics paid them less than their male counterparts, a federal judge in Trenton recently ruled. Ruling on both sides’ motions for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson found triable the claim that women hired to investigate attorney-ethics complaints routinely are given an AS-3 job classification, while men doing similar jobs are designated AS-4, at an added $10,000 to $12,000 a year. “Upon reviewing literally thousands of pages of deposition transcripts, affidavits, and documents provided by both sides, this Court finds the only thing about which there can be no dispute is that there are numerous genuine issues of material fact regarding the substantial equality of Plaintiffs’ work when compared to the AS-4s,” the judge wrote. The plaintiffs, Margaret Cox, Theresa Hubal and Susan Perry-Slay, have law degrees and training in the Rules of Professional Conduct, while male investigators in the office typically have only a law enforcement background, according to the suit. Cox v. Office of Attorney Ethics, No. 05cv-1608. Issues still awaiting clarification include whether the volume, quality and complexity of the women’s work matches that of higher-paid male counterparts, and whether other justifications exist for the wage disparity, Thompson wrote. The plaintiffs charge violation of the federal Equal Pay Act and discrimination based on gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Perry-Slay, who is black, also asserts racial discrimination claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Thompson did dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, based on 11th Amendment sovereign immunity.

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