Sunday, November 27, 2022

Citing wage gap, ex-employee sues Norfolk Southern alleging gender, race discrimination

A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Pittsburgh alleges that Norfolk Southern Corporation refused to hire or continue to employ workers with medical issues. (James St. John/ Wikimedia Commons)
A Portsmouth woman has filed a federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Corp. alleging gender and racial discrimination. (James St. John/ Wikimedia Commons)

NORFOLK — The same day that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Corp. alleging that the company has illegally discriminated against disabled workers and job applicants for almost a decade, a Portsmouth woman also filed a lawsuit against the Norfolk-based railroad corporation for allegedly discriminating against her based on her gender and race.

An African American woman named Devonette Thomas, who began working for Norfolk Southern in 2000, is suing the company for $500,000 based on the allegation that she was discriminated against based on her gender and race from 2008 until 2011, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk.

She originally filed a complaint with the EEOC while she was still working for Norfolk Southern. She was issued a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC on June 30.

Thomas began her career with Norfolk Southern in the customer service division for metals and construction. From March 2004 until October 2011, she was an assistant manager for the company’s intermodal traffic delivery division, the complaint states.

While she was in the assistant manager position, she was given performance evaluations that showed her superiors thought she was meeting and exceeding performance expectations, according to the complaint.

Thomas said that during the nearly eight-year period she worked as an assistant manager for the company’s intermodal traffic delivery division, she was one of three black women who worked in the department out of more than 150 employees, the complaint alleges.

In 2007, Thomas discovered that she was being paid less than white men who also worked as assistant managers in the same department. While Thomas made $54,300, the two men were making $64,900 and $72,500, according to the complaint.

Thomas believes that based on her performance evaluations, she was performing at the same level or at a higher level than the men she worked with.

She changed jobs again in November 2011 when she became a training specialist in the human resources department. While in that position, Thomas realized that she’d been continuously paid less than white men in her same position in the intermodal traffic delivery division from 2008 until 2011, the complaint states.

But Thomas says she’s not the only African American Norfolk Southern employee who was being paid less than their white counterparts.

Using salary data from 2007, she discovered that an African American man who worked as the assistant vice president of labor relations was paid about $23,000 less than his white counterpart, according to the complaint.

She also said that three women who worked as product managers were paid less than all but one of the men with the same job title. The three women had salaries ranging from $54,700 to $61,900, while their male counterparts were paid between $69,100 and $105,100, the complaint alleges.

The only exception was one man who was paid $57,300. Although three of the men had more experience at Norfolk Southern than the women, one of the men was less experienced and paid more, according to the complaint.

Thomas said that in October 2013 she was passed over for a management position for the intermodal traffic delivery division even though she said her nearly eight years in the department qualified her for the job. The man that was hired for the management position had only worked for Norfolk Southern for two years, the complaint alleges.

She is asking that a judge award her $500,000 for pain and suffering and to “punish” Norfolk Southern. She’s also asking for lost wages, back pay and attorney’s fees.

Thomas’ attorney, Christian Connell, and a spokesperson for Norfolk Southern did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Southside Daily.

Thomas’ complaint came the same day that the EEOC filed a federal complaint against Norfolk Southern alleging that from “at least” July 16, 2008, the company used medical information gathered by their internal medical department to “screen out” employees and candidates who should be “medically disqualified” from a position they held or sought based on past and existing disabilities.

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