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Bowen v. Manheim Remarketing, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

February 21, 2018

QUNESHA BOWEN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MANHEIM REMARKETING, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 1:15-cv-00876-TCB

          Before WILSON, JORDAN, and ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judges.

          WILSON, Circuit Judge:

         Qunesha Bowen appeals the dismissal of her employment discrimination claims against Manheim Remarketing. Bowen sued Manheim under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, alleging that Manheim discriminated against her by paying her less than her male predecessor. The district court dismissed Bowen's claims at summary judgment. After careful consideration of the record and the parties' briefs, we reverse and remand. Bowen is entitled to proceed to trial on her Equal Pay Act and Title VII sex discrimination claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Manheim hired Bowen as an automobile detailer, and three years later (in late 2005), assistant general manager John Deck promoted her to arbitration manager. Bowen replaced a male arbitration manager. Manheim paid that male predecessor $46, 350 during his first year as arbitration manager, but Deck and general manager Peter Palmer set Bowen's starting salary at $32, 000. Bowen's salary did not reach $46, 350 until her sixth year as arbitration manager.

         After learning about the pay disparity with her male predecessor, Bowen sued Manheim under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. At summary judgment, she offered in support of her claims, among other things, (1) documents and testimony about her performance and salary history and (2) affidavit testimony from Manheim's human resources manager, Mikiya Peoples.

         Bowen offered documents and testimony showing that, although she was an effective arbitration manager, her salary for a few years was below the minimum salary for arbitration managers and it was consistently well below the midpoint salary for arbitration managers. Manheim, for example, paid Bowen $37, 001.60 in 2007; $41, 000 in 2008; $46, 075.63 in 2010; and $46, 075.63 in 2011. But under Manheim's compensation guidelines the midpoint salary for an arbitration manager was $49, 400 in 2007; $52, 900 in 2008; $55, 500 in 2010; and $56, 500 in 2011.

         In her affidavit, Peoples described interactions with Manheim general managers such as Deck and Palmer and her investigations into sex-based disparities at Manheim:

• When Bowen was promoted to arbitration manager, Peoples approached Deck about the pay disparity between Bowen and Bowen's male predecessor. Deck explained that the predecessor was more experienced than Bowen. However, he also acknowledged that the predecessor had trained Bowen for the position and that Bowen was fully capable of performing the position's duties.
• Comments from a 2007 employee survey that Peoples conducted indicated that (1) female employees were treated differently than male employees, (2) female employees were denied particular positions, and (3) a "good ole' boy" system existed at Manheim.
• The 2007 survey results prompted Peoples to conduct an investigation into sex-based disparities at Manheim. She gathered all of Manheim's job postings and examined who applied and who interviewed for posted positions. Based on that review, she concluded that Manheim was excluding women from certain positions. Discussions with Palmer bolstered this conclusion. While discussing a female employee's application for an assistant general manager position, Palmer told Peoples that he would not hire a woman as an assistant general manager. According to Palmer, Manheim would be "the laughing stock" of the community if it made such a hire. Palmer also once told Peoples that he would never allow a female to work as a mechanic.
• Following the 2007 survey, Manheim's corporate office directed Palmer to confer with it when setting employee compensation, but Palmer failed to follow that directive.
• Comments from a 2009 employee survey that Peoples conducted indicated that female employees were paid less ...

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