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$67,500 Settlement Ends Discrimination Suit Against District

Sep 9, 2004 | Allentown Morning Call

Pennridge School District has agreed to pay $67,500 to a former human resources director who claims she was given smaller raises than her colleagues because she is a woman.

The settlement ends a federal gender discrimination lawsuit Karen Gokay filed against the district nearly two years ago.

Gokay and district officials said the sides reached the agreement late last month in a meeting with U.S. District Court Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen.

Pennridge Superintendent Robert Kish said the district's insurance company told him the amount is the maximum settlement it would pay and agreed to cover the district's legal bills.

Kish said the district still disputes Gokay's claims and decided to settle the case to avoid the cost of a trial. Had the district gone to trial and lost, it would have been responsible for a jury award above $67,500, he said.

''I challenge anyone to come and look at our records,'' Kish said Wednesday. ''This board has never discriminated against anyone based on gender.''

Gokay, who originally asked for more than $450,000 and started settlement negotiations at $90,000, said she was satisfied with the outcome.

''I am happy to put it behind me,'' she said. ''I feel vindicated. I also felt vindicated when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed I had a valid case.

''Whether the district wants to admit liability or not, the fact that they paid a settlement suggests otherwise. It doesn't change the fact that I was a victim of discrimination and there had to be some acknowledgement of that.''

Gokay's case was given credence when the EEOC backed her claim. In February, Van Antwerpen agreed with the EEOC when he declined to rule in the district's favor to keep the case from going before a jury.

Gokay started at Pennridge as a part-time attorney in 1993. She was hired as the human resources director in 1996 and remained there until she resigned in 1999.

In November 2002, Gokay filed suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia against Kish and the school district. Kish was dropped from the suit in February.

Gokay claimed she asked the district on several occasions to bring her salary in line with other district administrators and area human resources directors. Gokay's last increase brought her salary to $78,015.

She was replaced by George Crawford, who was hired at an annual salary of $86,500 and raised to $88,230 shortly after.

On Wednesday, Kish maintained Crawford ''came here with 15 years' experience and took a pay cut to work here.''

Gokay lives in Berks County, where she works as the human resources director for the Berks County intermediate unit. She said she resents that Kish has continued to call her lawsuit frivolous.

''It has been almost five years, and enough is enough,'' she said. ''I wasn't looking to retire on any type of settlement. That wasn't a goal.''

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