United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.
Caroline Hickethier, an English teacher in the School
District of Cornell, Wisconsin, alleges that the school
district is paying her significantly less than comparable
male teachers, in violation of the Equal Pay Act. The school
district moves for summary judgment. Dkt. 19. The school
district has adduced evidence that the pay disparity is
because of a factor other than sex, and Hickethier fails to
adduce evidence to the contrary. So the court will grant
summary judgment in the school district's favor.
court begins with an observation: some of Hickethier's
responses to the school district's proposed facts purport
to dispute the proposed fact but do not cite to evidence
supporting Hickethier's version of the fact, contrary to
the court's procedures on motions for summary judgment.
See Dkt. 10, at 10, 14. The court has accepted a
proposed fact as undisputed where neither side disputes it,
and where the proponent cites to admissible evidence in
support of the fact, and the other party offers no evidence
following facts are undisputed except where noted.
is a small town located in rural Northern Wisconsin. Like
many rural school districts, the School District of Cornell
faces declining enrollment. It expects 107 students to enroll
in its high school for the coming school year, down nearly a
third from 15 years ago.
like many rural school districts, the School District of
Cornell faces difficulties finding and retaining quality
teachers. One difficulty stems from the low demand for
courses in particular subjects. For example, the school
district wants to offer elective chemistry courses, and
therefore needs a teacher certified to teach chemistry. But
because of the small class size, the school district cannot
afford to hire a full-time chemistry teacher; it must either
find a chemistry teacher willing to work part-time, or it
must find a teacher certified in both chemistry and some
other subject so that the teacher can teach full-time.
difficulty that the school district faces is teacher pay. In
the past, the school district used a salary schedule that
determined teachers' salaries based primarily on their
graduate-level educational credits and years of experience.
This salary schedule was the product of collective bargaining
with the local teachers' union; the court will refer to
it as the “old model.” In 2014, after the passage
of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which altered public employees'
collective bargaining rights, the school district established
a new compensation model. The new model establishes a base
wage for teachers and allows for supplemental pay based on
graduate-level educational credits and years of experience,
similar to the old model. But it also allows for “other
incentives” to be provided “as needed” on
an individual basis. Dkt. 22-1. For example, the school
district may provide “hiring bonuses, special pay for
specific accomplishments or projects, [or] incentives for
positions with limited candidate pools.” Id.
New teachers hired by the school district in 2014 or later
are paid under the new model. Teachers who were already
working at the school district in 2014 have been paid under
whichever model gives them a higher salary.
school district also provides its employees with benefits,
including health insurance. If an employee declines health
insurance coverage, the school district pays the employee the
amount of the premium. The school district's
superintendent believes that under the Affordable Care Act,
“the School District can deny health insurance to up to
five percent [of its employees] or five employees, whichever
is greater.” Dkt. 22, ¶ 51. When the school
district “denies” an employee health insurance
coverage in this way, it adds the amount of the premium, less
a few thousand dollars, to the employee's annual
school district employees retire, they receive a monthly
pension. The pension is administered not by the school
district but by the Wisconsin retirement system. The amount
of an employee's monthly pension is based, in part, on
the employee's three highest years of salary earnings.
this background, the court now turns to the three teachers at
issue in this suit: Hickethier and the two male comparators
that she has identified, Richard Erickson and Steven Parker.
All three teach middle and high school students in Cornell.
joined the school district in 1989, after graduating from
college with a degree in English. In 1998, Hickethier
obtained a masters of arts in education while still working
for the school district. She also has 31 additional
educational credits. She is certified to teach English, which
is what she does for the school district. Since the passage
of Act 10, Hickethier has continued to be paid under the old
model, which provides her with a higher salary than the new
model would. For the 2015-2016 school year, Hickethier
received a salary of $57, 487.15. She also declined health
insurance coverage, so she received an extra $17, 400. For
the 2016-2017 school year, Hickethier received a salary of
$59, 000. And she declined health insurance coverage in
exchange for $18, 000. For the 2017-2018 school year,
Hickethier received a salary of $60, 400. Once again, she
declined health insurance coverage, so she received an extra