Elizabeth Polak v. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, No. 21-1848 (4th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff a longtime employee of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”), commenced this action against DEQ, claiming that it paid her less than it paid a male employee with the same position doing equal work, in violation of the Equal Pay Act. The district court entered summary judgment against Plaintiff, concluding that she lacked evidence to demonstrate that any higher-paid male employee was doing work “virtually identical” to the work she was doing. Indeed, the court explained that the record showed that the male employee whom Plaintiff had identified as a comparator was doing different and more complex work than she was, such that she could not show that she was paid less for equal work.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff could not establish that she and the male employee performed “equal work.” To be sure, Plaintiff and the male employee performed similar work. But the differences in the actual work performed and the level of complexity involved were significant enough that their work cannot be fairly described as “substantially equal” or “virtually identical,” as required to establish a claim under the Equal Pay Act.