The Plaintiff's Burden in Sex-Based Wage Discrimination Claims—International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America v. State of Michigan, 886 F.2d 766 (6th Cir. 1989)
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America v. State of Michigan (UAW) is the most recent interpretation of a plaintiff's evidentiary burden under a Title VII claim of sex-based wage discrimination. UAW held that job evaluation studies showing pay differentials between female and male dominated jobs of equal worth are insufficient to prove intentional discrimination. The court's holding was not required by previous case law and serves to make sex-based wage discrimination claims more difficult to prove than other Title VII claims. A plaintiff bringing a sex-based wage discrimination claim can no longer create an inference of intent; the plaintiff must prove intent. This Note examines those arguments addressing the issue of intent and analyzes the effect of the court's holding. First, the Note introduces the UAW case, its facts, and the arguments related to intent that the court relied on. Second, this Note analyzes the court's justifications for holding job evaluations insufficient to prove discrimination. The Note focuses on the court's erroneous interpretation of previous discrimination cases involving statistical evidence, the court's unprecedented and unwise decision that employers should be able to rely on the market to set wages, and the court's failure to consider traditional considerations in allocating the burden of proof. The Note then addresses the court's illogical concerns about imposing a wage scale on employers. The Note concludes that the UAW decision effectively denies employees their Title VII claims by disproportionately increasing the plaintiff's burden in these cases. Finally, the Note suggests that shifting the burden of proof to the employer would permit employees to bring claims and still protect the employer's interests. A model for this allocation is presented along with a discussion as to how this shift would address valid concerns raised by the court in UAW, including the employer's disincentive to conduct job evaluation studies if the studies could be used to create an irrebuttable presumption of discrimination.
Christine Y. Martin,
The Plaintiff's Burden in Sex-Based Wage Discrimination Claims—International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America v. State of Michigan, 886 F.2d 766 (6th Cir. 1989),
70 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol70/iss3/9