July 19, 2018
 
Boston Nonprofit Employee Files Claim under New Equity Law

July 6, 2018 — A female employee of a Boston nonprofit has filed what is believed to be the first lawsuit under the state's new equity pay law, which took effect July 1, claiming that she was paid significantly less than a male colleague doing comparable work, and is seeking $200,000 in unpaid wages along with other damages and costs.

The lawsuit, filed by Elizabeth Rowe, the top flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), alleges that she was paid substantially less than her closest male counterpart, the orchestra's principal oboist, both of whom lead woodwind sections, according to a report in the Boston Business Journal

Rowe filed her lawsuit at 10:07 a.m. on Monday, one day after the law went into effect, reported The Boston Herald, claiming she was paid $70,000 less than the principal oboist.

According to the BBJ report, "Rowe has performed as a soloist 27 times since joining the BSO in 2004, while the oboist, John Ferrillo, has performed solo 18 times during that time frame."

A spokesperson for the BSO said the organization had no comment on the matter as it has not yet been served with the suit, the report noted.

“[Rowe] pointed them to the law and tried to resolve it internally,” said Elizabeth A. Rodgers, Rowe's attorney, The Herald reported. “She gave them every possible opportunity to do so from January to July. She gave them documentation and evidence with ample evidence of law and regulation. She regrets she had to address it in a lawsuit to get them to fix this problem.”

Under the new law, there are factors, including training and seniority, which may allow employers to pay comparable employees at different levels.

Although employers have known for months about the start date of the new law, many, including nonprofit employers, may not be prepared to fully comply with its provisions. See more on steps Massachusetts nonprofits can take to comply with the new law.

The new law was passed in 2016, but a two-year waiting period was built into it to give employers time to prepare for its implementation.

According to the BBJ, Rowe asked the BSO to raise her pay to equal Ferrillo’s in 2015, 2016, and 2017, without success, noting "Rowe accuses the BSO of retaliating against her for objecting to the pay disparity."

"Rowe also claims the BSO retaliated against her when she shared her concerns about pay inequality," The Herald reported. "In December 2017, the BSO asked her to be interviewed by Katie Couric for a National Geographic segment on the orchestra’s longtime practice of using blind auditions, a procedure of screening auditioning musicians from their evaluators to combat race and gender bias."

Founded in 1881, the BSO today is recognized as one of the world's premier orchestras, performing concerts at its home in Symphony Hall, at its Tanglewood summer retreat in Lenox, and on tour around the globe.

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