A management company that runs the Savannah River nuclear site in Aiken, S.C., has agreed to pay nearly $235,000 to settle a wage discrimination case involving female and black employees.
The U.S. Department of Labor said that Savannah River Nuclear Solutions will give the money to 72 employees: 57 women and 15 African-Americans, all of whom were paid less than their white male counterparts for similar work in engineering, technical, administrative and other positions.
The department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said its probe focused on work done from 2009 to 2010.
It is disturbing. ...
Samuel Maiden, Southeast Regional Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
"Women and African Americans are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions (STEM). It is disturbing that at Savannah River, we found that many were employed in a STEM job, but were paid less than male or white counterparts because of discrimination," OFCCP Southeast Regional Director Samuel Maiden said in a statement.
The company denied any liability but entered into a conciliation agreement to resolve the alleged violations, the department said.
In addition to providing workers the back pay, the company also promised to review its labor policies. That will include an evaluation of whether promotion decisions, performance evaluation ratings, procedures for assigning work, training opportunities, leave policies, assigning applicants to jobs, and limiting job transfers have a negative effect on compensation of women and African Americans, the department said.
Barbara H. Smoak, director of business, technical and employee communications for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said the company was pleased that the government’s nearly six-year old compliance review had concluded.
“Although we disagree with the OFCCP’s findings, we are happy to reconfirm our company’s commitment to non-discrimination and equal employment opportunities offered to all of our employees, regardless of their race, gender or membership in any of the other categories protected by law,” she said in an email.
Under federal law, contractors cannot discriminate in pay or other compensation on the basis of sex or race.
... (Government’s) ability to conduct audits of contractors' pay practices is critical to closing pay gaps based on race and gender.
Patricia A. Shiu, director of Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
But OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu, who represents the department on President Barack Obama's National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, said that workers often don’t know how their pay compares with that of their colleagues, making it possible for discrimination to go undetected.
“That’s why OFCCP's ability to conduct audits of contractors' pay practices is critical to closing pay gaps based on race and gender," she said.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions is a partnership of Fluor Corp., Honeywell International Inc. and Newport News Nuclear Inc.
The company has a federal contract to both maintain and operate the Savannah River site, a nuclear reservation built in the 1950s that’s now the only source for new tritium gas for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.