United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
LENORE E. O'BRIEN, Plaintiff,
UNITY HEALTH PLANS INSURANCE CORPORATION, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge.
Lenore E. O'Brien contends that her former employer,
defendant Unity Health Plans Insurance Corporation, failed to
pay her a base salary equal to that of her male colleague,
Ryan Pelz, who held the same account executive job at Unity.
O'Brien brings suit under the Equal Pay Act, which
prohibits sex-based discrimination in compensation.
moves for summary judgment, contending that three reasons
other than sex account for the difference in salary between
O'Brien and Pelz: (1) O'Brien had less experience in
selling group health insurance than Pelz; (2) Unity stopped
awarding merit-based salary increases in 2012, so neither
O'Brien nor Pelz received any increase in base salary
since 2012; and (3) Pelz was a more consistent performer than
O'Brien. The first and third defenses present disputed
issues of fact, and the second defense fails as a matter of
law to account for the pay difference. The court will
therefore deny Unity's motion for summary judgment.
where noted, the following facts are undisputed.
worked as a Large Group Account Executive at Unity from May
2009 to October 2014. She joined the company around the same
time as her male colleague Pelz, who also joined as a Large
Group Account Executive. O'Brien's starting salary
was $67, 500; Pelz's was $75, 000. O'Brien had tried
to negotiate her salary, but she was told that she would need
to “outsell” Pelz to earn a higher salary. Dkt.
25, ¶ 21. During her employment at Unity, O'Brien
and Pelz were the only Large Group Account Executives, and
her base salary never equaled Pelz's. Both O'Brien
and Pelz also received commissions, which are not at issue in
account executive job at Unity was a sales position.
According to the job description produced by Unity, the
qualifications, experience, and skills needed for the job
were as follows:
• Bachelor's degree preferred and 2-3 years
sales/service experience preferably in the health insurance
industry; • Prior experience in underwriting and
understanding risk desirable;
• Knowledge of business operations;
• Effective communication and written skills, which
include presentation and interpersonal skills;
• Understanding of health care industry; and
• Strong knowledge of PCs and related applications.
Dkt. 14-1, at 3.
parties dispute the qualifications that O'Brien and Pelz
had when they joined Unity. O'Brien had slightly longer
experience in the health care industry sales: she had worked
at Janssen-Ortho-McNeil for about four years, at Cephalon for
about one year, and at MetLife for about two years. Dkt.
14-3, at 3. Unity contends that Pelz, who had slightly
shorter experience, nevertheless had more focused experience
in selling group health insurance. Dkt. 25, ¶¶ 9,
10. Pelz had worked at MercyCare Health Plans for about six
and a half years. Dkt. 14-2, at 4. Both O'Brien and Pelz
had bachelor's degrees, and the parties do not point to
any other aspect of their backgrounds as being pertinent to
this case. The ...