Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Equal pay? Equal to whom?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Let's get something straight up front: Women, in general, get paid less than male counterparts. This is the way it's been for as long as I can remember, and, apparently, it hasn't gotten a lot better. Oh, I suppose that the gap isn't as large as it once was, say in the 1950's, but it's there and that's a bad thing.

That being said, Francine Katz, formerly a vice president at Anheuser-Busch, isn't going to garner any sympathy from me or much of anyone else any time soon.

Seems Ms. Katz is suing the beer boys because she found out that her predecessor, John E. Jacob, was making $4 million a year when he left the company while she only got a paltry $1 million when she moved into the position. Notice that she is comparing her starting salary to his finishing salary. Mr. Jacob reached that salary in two years (1989 to 1991); Ms. Katz's finishing salary after 6 years on the job was $14 million.

Say what? That's over three times what the other guy made. The article points out that part of here compensation her last year was due to stock options, but surely Mr. Jacob also made use of any options he had when he left. And there's no mention of any annual bonuses she may have been pulling down during those six years.

Oh, and ironically enough, Mr. Jacob is an African American, a group that's been on the wrong side of the salary divide many times.

August Busch III testified that Mr. Jacob had impressive credentials that far outstripped those of Ms. Katz. Well, let's see. He was head of the National Urban League, is chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees at Howard University, and has 19 honorary doctorates. He is well known for his work in civil rights. In other words, he's a heavy hitter.

Which, frankly, looks pretty damn good to me.

That's not to say Ms. Katz is not worthy of a vice president's salary. The question is was her salary in line with her qualifications and the responsibilities of the job. Apparently, the beer company lawyers are spending a lot of time describing the policies and procedures involved in determining her pay range and pointing out that Mr. Jacob's position involved more responsibilities.

Interestingly, there's no mention anywhere in the story that she felt underpaid compared to her current colleagues, which would be a much more telling argument. She did claim that she had to fly on separate flights from other executives and was excluded from “corporate golf tournaments and other functions.” The airplane business doesn't shock me. Many companies make it a policy that executives will not fly together to avoid all of them being taken out by a plane crash. As to the exclusion from corporate playtime, well, perhaps, just perhaps, she had indicated she wasn't interested. From experience, I know that all you only have to beg off once to be excluded forever.

Which never bothered me, but I wasn't making $14 million a year.

What's really wrong here is that there are people dedicated to fighting equal pay for equal work or, for that matter, just a decent working wage for everyone. When you get a complaint that looks like a naked greed play, these fine folks will be the first to use it as an excuse to say that the pay gaps don't really exist.

Ms. Katz is asking for $9.4 mil plus the good ol' punitive damages. If she wins, perhaps she'll take some of that dosh and go to work to strengthen laws regarding pay equity.

But I doubt it.

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