Former GC Wins Gender Discrimination Decision

Menard Inc. must reinstate its former vice president and executive general counsel, who was fired after a pay dispute, the Wisconsin Third District Court of Appeals ruled April 14.

In the original complaint, attorney Dawn Sands alleged the hardware store chain practiced gender-based pay discrimination. An arbitration panel agreed that the company violated the Equal Pay Act by paying a similarly ranked male employee more than Sands. The panel also decided the company retaliated against Sands for her claim, in violation the Equal Pay Act, Title VII and the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.

As part of the arbitration agreement, Menard was ordered to reinstate Sands and pay her damages. However, the company refused to reinstate the lawyer, so she sued. A lower court upheld the arbitration decision.

Menard argued the arbitrators disregarded the law by ordering Sands to be reinstated and by allowing her to choose her own attorney.

Writing for the three-judge appellate panel that upheld the arbitration and lower court decision, Judge Edward Brunner wrote, "We cannot conclude the arbitrators manifestly disregarded law that was nonexistent at the time of the arbitrators' decision. Additionally, we note that Menard fails to explain how Wisconsin law regarding clients' rights to choose their attorneys, or the rules of professional conduct, could negate the remedies of wrongfully terminated employees under federal law."

Find the ruling here.

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