(CN) – The Court of Federal Claims dismissed a female airport screener’s claim that the Transportation Security Administration violated the Equal Pay Act by paying men higher salaries based on their college degrees and military experience.
Paula R. Moorehead, hired as a screener at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2002, sued the TSA, claiming several men hired around the same time received higher base salaries because of their gender.
According to TSA policy, screeners in 2002 received a base salary of $23,000, plus up to 11 percent more for cost of living expenses, depending on the city. Screeners with “specialized experience” often received a higher base salary, usually between $25,000 and $30,000.
Moorehead argued that the TSA interpreted “experience” too broadly for male employees, offering higher salaries to men with college degrees and military experience that did not directly relate to airport security.
Judge George W. Miller disagreed, siding with TSA’s claim that a wide range of experience – especially higher education and military experience – can be applied to airport security work.
Further, the TSA said that in 2002 it hired a total of 1,039 screeners to work at SeaTac, 699 of whom were male and 340 female. Only 70 of the total were hired with an initial salary above the minimum: 50 males and 20 females, or around 6 percent of the females and about 7 percent of the males.
“While the percentages of men and women given enhanced salary offers are not precisely identical, they are very close,” Judge Miller wrote. “The court has therefore determined that any pay differential between plaintiff and male applicants was not the result of a gender difference, but a difference in pertinent experience.”