A former superintendent in a California district has been awarded about $2 million after a federal judge found that she had been underpaid and had been the victim of sex discrimination.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that Kathy Gomez sued her former employer, the Evergreen school district in San Jose, contending that the school system paid her significantly less as superintendent than her male predecessor.
Ruling in favor of Gomez, Judge Nathanael Cousins found that the district “failed to show that the pay disparity between Gomez and her predecessor was justified by a job-related ‘bona fide reason other than sex.'”
Gomez retired in 2019 after eight years as superintendent and 30 years with the district.
After Gomez had been on the job for four years, the Evergreen district compared its superintendent salary with six other districts. The study found that her compensation ranked last by at least 22%. At the time, Gomez said the district also underpaid her compared with her male predecessor, Clif Black.
Gomez and Black were hired with starting salaries at $180,000, but the pay gap between the two amounted to $34,000 by their sixth year in office.
Gomez repeatedly raised the issue at board meetings, but an agreement was never reached.
According to the lawsuit, a board member contended that fellow board member Jim Zito, who ran for San Jose City Council in 2020, stated that the “only reason two female board members wanted to increase Ms. Gomez’s pay was because they had ‘the same thing between their legs.'”
To counter Gomez’s argument, the district presented 16 reasons why it believed she was paid less than her predecessor including performance issues, concerns over “pension spiking” and the district’s fiscal condition.
But the judge rejected those arguments.
“Even if the district has articulated job-related reasons for the disparity, plaintiff has shown that they were pretextual because they were not raised during Gomez’s tenure,” Cousins said.