ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Nov. 19 that Pizza Studio in Kansas violated the Equal Pay Act as per a federal district court judgment.
"As this case against Pizza Studio demonstrates, the EEOC will thoroughly investigate and enforce this critical federal law," said EEOC St. Louis District director James R. Neely Jr in a statement.
In 2016, two high school friends, Jensen Walcott and Jake Reed, both applied, interviewed for, and were offered employment as “pizza artists” at Pizza Studio. Upon being hired, the two discussed their starting wages and it allegedly turned out Reed was offered 25 cents more per hour than Walcott. Walcott purportedly called the restaurant to complain about the discrepancy in pay.
"It is particularly impressive that these younger workers had the courage to stand up and challenge what they saw as illegal treatment,” Neely said.
According to EEOC, Pizza Studio withdrew offers from both Walcott and Reed from Walcott after Walcott’s complaint.
"Although there has been much in the news recently about sexual harassment in the workplace, unlawful sex discrimination takes many forms,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC's regional attorney in St. Louis, in a statement. “Paying women less than men for equal work is not only illegal, it demeans female workers."
Federal District Court Judge Carlos Murguia ordered Pizza Studio to pay back pay and lost wages to Walcott and Reed as well as liquidated, compensatory and punitive damages. The Pizza Studio, where the two were offered employment, is no longer in operation, but the holding company that owned it operates more of the restaurants nationwide. Thus, the judge also ordered the company to implement policies to better comply with the Equal Pay Act.