Pay equity

Teen says she was fired for asking why she was paid less than male co-worker

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A Kansas teenager says that she was fired from the Pizza Studio in Kansas City for asking why she was being paid less than a male co-worker. Jensen Walcott, 17, says she and her friend, Jake Reed, 17, were hired by the pizza chain on the same day. “We were excited,” Walcott said. “We were super excited.” But after the two talked together about the opportunity, they discovered that Reed was being paid $8.25 per hour while Walcott was only earning $8 an hour — in spite of the fact that the two teens were the same age, had the same work experience, and had been offered identical job positions.

Walcott said she called her boss to ask why, only to be put on hold. “I was like, maybe when I’m on hold right now she will offer me $8.25 and everything is gonna be good, but … she didn’t do that,” Walcott recalled. When her manager got back on the line, the teenager was informed she was being fired because discussing pay violated company policy. Walcott’s friend Reed got the axe as well.

Attorney David White said that Walcott might be entitled to sue Pizza Studio — it’s illegal to fire someone for complaining about unequal wages, White said. Walcott said that she was never told employees couldn’t discuss pay, but that she doesn’t plan on pursuing legal action. What she wants now, she said, is the same thing as when she first called her boss — an explanation for why she didn’t merit the same pay as her friend.

Following an investigation of the incident, Pizza Studio extended a formal apology to Walcott and Reed, offered them their jobs back, and parted company with the manager “in the best interests of all parties involved.”

“After an in-depth review, we are confident this instance was not one of gender-bias but rather a failure to assign the correct salary and a misunderstanding of our company policies by one of our employees,” Executive Director of Operations Ashleigh Siefker wrote in a statement to Women in the World.

“As a female and the highest ranking operations executive in the company, I oversee 750 employees, and have personally instituted policies and procedures that strictly prohibit discrimination of any kind.”

The company said they plan to use the experience to better improve their hiring procedures and policies moving forward.

This story was updated to include the response from Pizza Studio.

Read the full story at The New York Daily News.

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