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Colley v. Dickenson County School Board

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

October 5, 2017

DEBRA COLLEY, Plaintiff,

          John P. Fishwick, Jr. and Monica L. Mroz, Fishwick & Associates PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Plaintiff; Jim H. Guynn, Jr., Guynn & Waddell, PC, Salem, Virginia, for Defendant Dickenson County School Board

          Melissa W. Robinson and Johneal M. White, Glenn Robinson & Cathey, PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Defendants Susan Mullins and Rocky Barton.


          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         In this employment discrimination case by a former Virginia public school employee, the plaintiff asserts claims against the school board, the school superintendant, and the individual members of the board, based upon the Equal Pay Act, Title IX, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as breach of contract. The school board and certain of its members have moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, I will deny the motions.


         The Complaint alleges the following facts, which I must accept as true for the purpose of deciding the pending motions.

         Plaintiff Debra Colley was employed by Dickenson County Public Schools (“DCPS”) as the Supervisor of Instruction Elementary/Secondary from 2007 until July 2015. She was one of five employees classified as Supervisor/Central Office. Colley's predecessor, a male, was the highest paid supervisor for DCPS. When Colley took the position, she became the lowest paid supervisor.

         At the time she was hired, Colley was led to believe that all five supervisor positions received similar salaries. However, two of the male supervisors received large salary increases around that time. She was not aware of this discrepancy. Colley also expressed her concern over the disparity in salary between supervisors and school principals, and then-Superintendent Compton advised Colley that she would address the pay scales.[1] Another male supervisor complained to Superintendant Compton about his salary and received a large increase. Colley also complained to the new Superintendent Robinson, who represented to Colley that she would try to remedy the disparity. However, Colley received no salary increase.

         Colley planned to retire in July 2015. Prior to her retirement, Colley decided to address the salary issue with the Dickenson County School Board (“School Board”). To prepare for the meeting, Colley obtained a list of DCPS positions and salaries. Colley learned from this list that since 2008, three of the male supervisors, who performed work of equal or similar difficulty, had higher salaries than Colley. In 2015, the male salaries were each approximately eleven thousand dollars greater than Colley's. Colley presented this salary data to the School Board in April 2015.

         In May 2015, members of the School Board, as well as Superintendent Robinson, told Colley that the School Board would correct the pay discrepancy. Following the May 2015 School Board meeting, the School Board attorney advised Colley that the School Board had directed him to correct the salary issue. According to the numbers calculated by the School Board clerk, the total unpaid compensation owed to Colley for her last eight years of employment was $90, 477.73. This disparity affects her retirement amount, which is based on her three highest salary years. The clerk also contacted the Virginia Retirement System to begin facilitating the correction to Colley's creditable compensation.

         Prior to the July 2015 School Board meeting, its attorney indicated a range of compensation the School Board would approve, and Colley stated that she would accept anything within that range. However, after the July meeting, Superintendant Robinson and the attorney advised Colley that the School Board would not offer her any compensation. Colley's successor, a male, was employed at a salary that was two thousand dollars greater than Colley's at the time of her retirement.

         Colley alleges that the Superintendant, the School Board, and the individual members of the School Board, were responsible for setting and approving all supervisor salaries.


         Colley filed her Complaint on March 7, 2017, asserting four claims. Count One is an Equal Pay Act claim brought against the School Board regarding the disparity between Colley's salary and the male supervisors. Count Two is a Title IX claim against the School Board regarding the same salary disparity. Count Three is a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the School Board, the Superintendant, and members of the School Board in their individual capacities. Count Four is a breach of contract claim under state law against the School Board.

         The School Board has moved to dismiss Count Four of the Complaint, and individual defendants Mullins and Barton have moved to dismiss Count Three asserted against them individually for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The ...

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