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Spencer v. Virginia State University

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

March 18, 2019

ZOE SPENCER, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY; KEITH T. MILLER, Defendants - Appellees, and HARRY BLACK; WILLIE C. RANDALL; DAPHNE MAXWELL REID; TERONE B. GREEN, Defendants.

          Argued: October 31, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond. Henry E. Hudson, Senior District Judge. (3:16-cv-00989-HEH-RCY)

         ARGUED:

          Noah Barnett Peters, NOAH PETERS LAW, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          Jimmy F. Robinson, Jr., OGLETREE DEAKINS NASH SMOAK & STEWART, PC, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Christopher C. Murray, Indianapolis, Indiana, Elizabeth Ebanks, Kyle R. Elliott, OGLETREE DEAKINS NASH SMOAK & STEWART, PC, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.

          Before WILKINSON, FLOYD, and RICHARDSON, Circuit Judges.

          RICHARDSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Dr. Zoe Spencer, a sociology professor at Virginia State University, sued the University under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII for paying her less than two male professors, allegedly because she is a woman.

         Spencer earned about $70, 000 per year-a median salary when compared to the men who were also full professors in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice. But Spencer's lawsuit proposes comparing her pay to that of two former University administrators, Drs. Michael Shackleford and Cortez Dial, who each earned over $100, 000 per year as professors in other departments. While Spencer asserts that the difference in pay was due to her sex, the University provides a different explanation: Shackleford's and Dial's jobs differed from Spencer's and, as former administrators, their pay was set as a prorated portion of their previous salaries.

         After discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for the University (and its former president, Dr. Keith Miller). We affirm. Though Spencer establishes a pay disparity, she fails to present evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact that Shackleford and Dial are appropriate comparators. In any event, unrebutted evidence shows that the University based Shackleford's and Dial's higher pay on their prior service as University administrators, not their sex.[1]

         I. Equal Pay Act

         Spencer first claims that the disparity between her salary and her chosen comparators' violates the Equal Pay Act. The statute ...


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