Female teachers sue their district for fair pay

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Three Baldwin-Whitehall School District teachers, all women, sued their employer Friday in U.S. District Court, saying that when they were hired a decade ago, their experience was not weighted as heavily as that of male hires.

Holly Niemi, 36, of East Allegheny; Katherine Musselman, 34, of Swissvale; and Donna Vecchio, 51, of Canonsburg claim in the lawsuit that the district, in assigning them to steps on the pay scale, violated the federal Equal Pay Act. All want back pay and to be reassigned to steps on the scale that reflect where they would be if they had been treated fairly upon their initial hire.

"We have found evidence that the district hired men who are performing substantially similar work and were hired at more favorable pay steps than the plaintiffs were, than these women were," said their attorney, Colleen Ramage Johnston. "They didn't get credit for their full prior experience.

"We want to have the practice stopped."

According to the complaint, Ms. Vecchio, a high school math teacher, had 13 years of public school teaching experience in and out of Pennsylvania, plus four years in private schools, but was placed on step three of the pay scale, reflecting two years of experience.

Ms. Niemi and Ms. Musselman both taught out of state prior to their hires by Baldwin-Whitehall. Ms. Niemi, who teaches languages, had five years of teaching experience and a year as a long-term substitute, but she was given credit for just three years of experience, according to the lawsuit. Ms. Musselman, a high school English teacher, had two years of experience but was assigned to the lowest step for rookie teachers.

The district gave male hires more credit for their experience, according to the complaint.

Neither Baldwin-Whitehall superintendent Randy Lutz nor solicitor Bruce Dice could be reached for comment.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord

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