BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Gilbert Foods LLC, trading as Hearn-Kirkwood, will pay $63,500 and furnish equitable relief to resolve allegations of pay discrimination.

The EEOC claimed that Hearn-Kirkwood, a food service distributor, paid order selector Sonia Coates less than her male counterparts for the same work at its Hanover, Maryland facility. Coates had more experience than her counterparts as well, according to the EEOC.

Coates learned of this pay discrepancy and allegedly mentioned to co-workers that she would file a discrimination suit. When a manager learned of this, he allegedly informed Coates’s supervisor that the company would find a way to fire her without making it appear unlawful. This is a method of retaliation, according to the EEOC.

"Ensuring that employees can seek equal pay for equal work without being subject to reprisal is fundamental to the commission's ability to enforce anti-discrimination laws," District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, said.

In addition to $63,500 in back pay, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees given to Coates, the consent decree enjoins the company from engaging in gender-based wage discrimination or retaliation.

"We are pleased that Hearn-Kirkwood worked with us to resolve this matter amicably,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said. “This resolution provides fair compensation to Ms. Coates for her wage loss and provides important equitable relief designed to ensure that employees are not subjected to pay discrimination or retaliation."

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