Highway Store Chain to Pay $1.1M to Settle Equal Pay Claims

A highway convenience store chain has just agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a suit brought by over 100 female operations managers, who claimed they were not equally paid to their male counterparts.

On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe L. Webster recommended the court approve the $1,137,500 settlement in Kristen Horton's Equal Pay Act class action against the chain, Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. Judge Webster said the terms of the agreement were fair and reasonable compared with the risks of continuing to fight the case in court.

"If the settlement is not approved, plaintiff faces risks regarding being able to sustain summary judgment and would have to proceed to trial," Judge Webster said in the recommendation. "If the parties proceeded to trial, plaintiff and the collective members face the risk of not persuading a jury that they were unequally paid for equal work due to potentially conflicting documents regarding the qualification of the opt-in plaintiffs."

The settlement includes payments to the collective action members, a service award of up to $7,500 for Horton, $379,166 in attorney fees and reimbursements for administrative costs, according to the recommendation. The collective will be paid based upon the number of workweeks the employees worked from Dec. 6, 2016, through Dec. 2, 2021.

Horton filed the suit in December 2019 on behalf of a class of 102 female operations managers alleging pay inequities. Horton, who worked as an operations manager at three Love's locations from 2012 until 2018, said that she was paid $45,000 a year but that one of her male co-workers who performed the same duties was paid $53,000 per year.

That male employee worked fewer hours per week than Horton, she said in her complaint, had spent less time with the company and had fewer years of relevant work experience.

The case was certified as a collective action in December 2020, and Horton filed an unopposed, amended motion to approve a settlement agreement in January after two mediation sessions.

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