MUSCATINE, Iowa - Another woman has alleged gender-based wage discrimination against Allsteel - launching a lawsuit against the company and its parent firm HNI Corp. This is the third lawsuit against Allsteel alleging gender-based discrimination.
Stephanie Rife, who has worked at Allsteel and HNI for 13 years, claimed in a lawsuit filed in February that she was paid much less than men for doing the same jobs and was fired because of her gender. Rife says Allsteel and HNI violated the Equal Pay Act, Iowa Civil Rights Act and Title VII.
In the lawsuit, Rife claims wage discrimination at multiple positions she served in between 2004 and 2018. As HNI operations manager, she claimed a male factory manager under her was paid more. She seeks compensation for lost wages, attorney fees, and emotional distress.
Allsteel and HNI have not yet commented. The trial is set to take place August of 2020.
In 2017, a jury ruled Allsteel must compensate three female Allsteel employees for gender-based wage discrimination.
Erin Dindinger, a safety and environmental manager for 11 years, and Elizabeth Fruend, a plant manager, both claimed they were paid less than male employees with the same title. Lisa Loring, a manager for five years, said she was denied a promotion based on her gender.
Allsteel said the employees were paid less based on prior education and experience, seniority and poor job performance, according to court documents. The company also claimed that the women were paid less due to economic conditions - particularly the 2008 recession. The jury awarded the plaintiffs back-pay of $204,000 and attorney fees totaling $269,877.
Allsteel motioned for a new trial following the ruling, which was denied. They then appealed the ruling. The appeals court affirmed the previous ruling:
"The court concluded that the district court correctly instructed the jury that Allsteel could not rely on economic conditions to establish its affirmative defense to the Equal Pay Act claim that a factor other than sex justified the pay discrepancies between plaintiffs and their male comparators. Even if the court were to agree that economic conditions could be a factor other than sex justifying a pay differential in some circumstances, Allsteel did not present evidence to establish such a defense. Because Allsteel did not present evidence that economic conditions caused the pay differentials plaintiffs experienced, the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury that Allsteel could not rely on economic conditions to establish an affirmative defense.
Allsteel is a division of HNI Corp., the fourth largest contract/office furniture manufacturer in the United States. HNI makes contract/office furniture; including desks, credenzas, filing/storage, office systems, office chairs, bookcases, conference tables, home office furniture, and glass walls with annual sales of $1.704 billion. HNI’s divisions include Allsteel, Gunlocke, HON, HNI International, Maxon, Paoli, Artcobell, HBF, Lamex, and bpergo. The company’s 8,500 employees are located in 10 manufacturing locations, including Cedartown, Georgia; Mt. Pleasant and Muscatine, Iowa; and Wayland, New York.
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