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Tampa woman wins lawsuit against Citicorp for pay discrimination

Published Apr. 17, 2012

TAMPA — When Heidi Wilson was promoted to manager of the Citicorp service center in 2009, she was upset that she didn't get a raise or a bonus — especially since she knew her male predecessor made more than she did.

When she was bypassed for a raise and a bonus again in 2011, she requested a market analysis be done within the company. Her supervisor didn't authorize it.

When she was fired in March 2011 without severance pay, she decided to go to court.

More than a year later, Wilson will receive a check for almost $340,000 in back pay. She successfully sued Citicorp North America, a subsidiary of Citibank, for violating the Equal Pay Act and failing to pay her the same amount as her male counterparts.

In 2009, the year she was promoted, Wilson earned $75,329 to manage the service center in Tampa. The previous service center manager, a man, earned $129,567 in 2008, according to case records.

"It wasn't fair that they were paying the men who did the same job twice as much," said Ryan Barack, Wilson's attorney.

The court didn't think so either, although she lost the retaliation suit that claimed she was fired for speaking out about it.

According to case records, Wilson was fired after accidentally sending an instant message to her supervisor that said he was having an affair with another co-worker. Her supervisors told the court that she then asked other employees to lie about the incident.

Wilson, who worked for the company for 11 years, denied that she encouraged anyone to lie for her, and said it was a mistake and a "relatively minor offense" on an otherwise pristine record. Wilson declined to comment on the case.

Citicorp argued that it pays its employees based on merit, seniority and experience. However, the court ruled that the evaluations conducted by Wilson's supervisor were too subjective. The company also used the poor economy as an excuse for paying Wilson less, but testimony showed other employees received huge bonuses during the recession, some of which were greater than Wilson's entire salary.

"We are pleased that the arbitrator rightly found in Citicorp North America's favor on Ms. Wilson's termination claim, but respectfully disagree with the arbitrator's findings on her compensation claim," said a Citi spokesperson. "We base salaries on job responsibilities, merit, seniority and experience. We do not tolerate discrimination. CNAI is considering its options."

Barack was pleased with the victory.

"We're very pleased with the decision and think it sends an important message to large employers that they cannot pay their female employees less than their male employees," Barack said. "People should know that even in 2012 that pay discrimination against female executives still continues, and people should be aware of it and do what they can to eliminate it."

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