Football, Pharma Companies, Hollywood and Pay Equity…

The NFL, Pfizer and…. Suzanne Somers??? Is there a connection here? I’m going to argue that there is.

OK, WHAT’s the connection?

All of them were on one side or the other of Pay Equity issues. Let’s get some more details and see what we can learn from them.

So, here is each scenario in reverse chronological order:

On Monday October 16, 2023 the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued a press release that it obtained a $2m settlement from Pfizer over allegations that in 2015 and 2016 it paid 86 female employees in its NYC headquarter location less than its male employees doing the same or substantially equivalent jobs. Pfizer is a federal contractor, subject to affirmative action laws, which the OFCCP enforces.

The OFCCP particularly focuses on a contractor’s pay practices, because: a) paying women and minorities less than men and non-minorities is itself discrimination, and b) the OFCCP sees pay discrimination as the tip of the iceberg: In other words, if there’s pay discrimination it probably reflects other, more systemic discrimination.

In May, the NYS and California Attorney Generals’ offices launched a joint investigation of the National Football League’s compensation practices and other alleged discrimination against its female employees that include hostile work environment. While the NFL asserts that the allegations are “entirely inconsistent” with its policies and practices, last year’s NY Times investigation that included interviews of 30 women seems to say the opposite.

OK, so what about the late Suzanne Somers? Many of you know that from 1976 to 1982, Suzanne Somers starred on ABC’s “Three’s Company” as Chrissy Snow. She was a big deal — but her pay didn’t reflect that. Her per-episode pay was $30k to John Ritter’s $150k. Then she dared to ask the network for equal pay. She was fired from the show and in later interviews said she was ostracized for it, her relationship with former co-star Joyce DeWitt having only recently been repaired.

Her husband, himself a producer, expressed the belief that the network fired her to send a message to women at that time who were looking to be paid the same money as a leading male. Her husband also has said she was the first woman in Hollywood to ask that women receive as much pay as men.

Pay equity is still an issue. Pay Discrimination against women has been illegal under the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, since June 10, 1963. Pay discrimination against women and minorities has been illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 since July 2, 1964. There’s been a lot of progress, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.

If you’re a federal contractor, know that the OFCCP particularly scrutinizes compensation practices and a routine compliance audit will pick up discrepancies. If you’re not, and you don’t ensure pay equity in your company you run the risk of at least one very expensive lawsuit every day you don’t address that issue.

Whether you’re a Hollywood producer, a large pharm company, a professional sports league, or any type of employer, you will face challenges attracting and retaining good talent — and successfully promoting your brand if you can’t find it in you to practice pay equity amongst ALL your employees.

As mentioned above, it’s the law, too. Speak with friendly local employment counsel to make sure you’re on the right side of it. Or roll the dice, if you prefer…

That’s all I’ve got for now. See you next time.

Are you an employer interested in proactively addressing workplace challenges and company culture? Visit my website, to contact me for a complimentary 20-minute consultation. 

Watch my television interview on Good Morning HR with Mike Coffey on Mental Health and the ADA.

Contents of this post are for educational/informational purposes only, are not legal advice, and do not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult with competent employment counsel in the state(s) in which you employ people with your specific questions.

Before choosing an attorney, you should give this matter careful thought. The selection of an attorney is an important decision. If you find this communication to be inaccurate or misleading, you may report it to the Committee on Attorney Advertising Hughes Justice Complex, CN 037, Trenton, NJ


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