Discrimination Suit: Female Reporter Files Against RI Public Radio
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
In her charge filed in February, Jonic wrote, "I believe that I have been discriminated against based on my sex by my employer," and refered to the difference in her pay and that of RIPR reporter Ian Donnis.
"Currently, [reporter] Ian Donnis earns at least $75,000 a year, while I make $51,000 per year. We perform the same duties, and I have 32 more years experience than he does," wrote Jonic in her complaint.
The equal pay complaint lodged against RIPR by Jonic was with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, for which the Rhode Island Commission on Human Rights is the state agency.
Jonic said she filed the compaint following an article Donnis wrote in February 4 on Mayor Taveras' workplace pay equity proposal.
Jonic, who was recently on medical leave from the station with health issues, also filed a discrimination complaint form under the ADA with the U.S. Department of Justice, after being let go from her position last week.
RIPR General Manager Joe O'Connor, when asked about Jonic's recent dismissal said they were "false claims."
“Flo Jonic has been a valuable member of the Rhode Island Public Radio family since its inception in 2008. We are saddened Flo has made false claims against RIPR. RIPR has adopted and enforces a strict policy prohibiting discrimination of any sort and states unequivocally that it has not discriminated against any of its female employees," said O'Connor. "In fact, RIPR is quite proud of its record of hiring and promoting women, including its Morning Edition Host, its News Director and its Chief Operating Officer. Flo Jonic no longer works for RIPR and all of us here wish her the very best.”
Pay Equity in Question
"I've been a reporter since 1977," said Jonic, who started out in radio and TV in Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon before moving to Boston in 1993, ultimately landing a position with WBZ in Boston in 1996 after doing freelancing work, where she remained until 2005.
Jonic said she then came to Rhode Island Public Radio in 2006 as a morning writer. "I just started voicing reports in the morning, because I could do it, and they needed it. I had to negotiate a salary of $20 an hour, which was big -- they usually pay that person $10-$12."
"In 2008, it was my understanding that Donnis, who was at The Phoenix, was looking for the News Director position," said Jonic. "So I was surprised when he was given the political reporter position, which they'd actually discussed with me."
In her complaint, Jonic noted that she'd broached the pay discrepancy with RIPR. "I have complained about this discriminatory wage disparity of several occasions, most recenly last year. I was told that the wage disparity exists because Ian Donnis' job is funding by a grant."
In a letter dated March 11, Jonic received an invitation for mediation, but Jonic said she declined. "It might as well has been an invitation from an employer to cut your losses", said Jonic.
"I was fired last Thursday. They brought up an internal e-mail I'd sent on karma, saying it was insubordination -- insubordination is the refusal to do your job, or walk off the story," said Jonic. "This isn't insubordination, this is illegal. I was terminated following my equal pay complaint."
Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, the national non-profit dedicated to advancing the rights of women which has "litigated the nation’s most prominent equal pay cases," spoke to the issue of pay equity -- and litigation.
"Women have a high success rate in equal pay cases if they have the information they need to show discrimination," said Farrell. "The EEOC for example obtained more than $62.5 million in monetary relief through administrative enforcement of victims of sex-based wage discrimination between 2010 and 2012."
"Equal Rights Advocates runs a national hotline that receives hundreds of calls each year. We have found that if women have information about what men in their workplace make, we can often negotiate a resolution without a lawsuit. But getting comparator information without filing a lawsuit is rare. Women fear retaliation if they approach their employers with concerns. Indeed, studies have shown the women are viewed as overly aggressive if they ask for a raise, while men are viewed favorably as good self-advocates," said Farrell.
"Women cannot challenge discrimination they don’t know about. That is why organizations like ERA are calling for better data collection by the state and federal agencies that are supposed to be monitoring pay discrimination. We are also calling for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act so that workers can talk about their pay and learn the information they need to stop discrimination in the workplace."
Related Slideshow: Women Leading in Rhode Island
Who are some of Rhode Island's high-level female bosses? GoLocal takes a look at some of the leading women in the state in their respective industries, in the private and nonprofit sector.
The founder and Creative Director of Alex and Ani, Rafaelian started the company in 2004 to produce jewelry to “adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.”
Prior to founding Alex and Ani, Rafaelian produced designs for and co-owned Cinerama, her father’s jewelry manufacturing company. Now, in addition to Alex and Ani, Rafaelian owns Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard, and the café franchise Teas and Javas. Rafaelian received the 2012 Rhode Island Small Businessperson of the Year Award as well as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the products category for New England.
Merchant is the CEO and President of Hope Global, an engineered textile solutions company centered in Cumberland with plants and sales offices all over the world.
Merchant began her career as a production supervisor at General Motors, then worked at Mazda, Ford Motor Company, and Lear Corporation, and managed manufacturing plants in Mexico, Canada, Poland, England, and America.
In addition to her work with Hope Global, Merchant is an active member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Commodores, and the Governor’s Economic Development Council, and is a trustee of Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.
Snead is the CEO of Banneker Industries, Inc., a supply chain management company in North Smithfield that has performed e-procurement, assembly, packaging, inventory management, warehousing and distribution services since its founding in 1991.
Snead has served as state delegate on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council and received the 2009 New England Businesswoman of the Year Award and Women Business Enterprise National Council Star Award, among numerous others in year prior. She now serves on the Board of Directors of AMICA Insurance Company and is a member of the Rhode Island Commodores.
Zimmerman is the CEO and Chairman of the Board for FarSounder Inc., a Warwick based company specializing in sonar technology and born of Zimmerman’s achievement in the 2002 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.
Since its inception, the company’s sales have grown exponentially and it has expanded to different markets within the nautical navigation industry.
Previously, Zimmerman has run numerous other businesses including a company for wholesale book selling and one for engineering services.
The nineteenth President of Brown University, Paxson had previously served as Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Chair of its economics department, as well as Director and founder of an NIA Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging.
Paxson is an expert in public health, having conducted research on childhood health, AIDS in Africa, and Hurricane Katrina, among other topics.
White, the President of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, previously served as its Senior Vice President, and an executive counselor to the Governor in policy and communications. She is dedicated to strengthening the business community in Providence with focus on employment and retaining young, talented professionals to work in the state.
Dr. Carriuolo is the ninth President of Rhode Island College. She has previously served as the Director of the Office of School/College Relations at NEASC and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences the University of New Haven.
She has written over thirty publications, featured in, among others, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Education Week. In 2009, she was named a CLADEA fellow, and she has served on the boards of many organizations, including the Journal of Developmental Education and New England Dollars for Scholars.
Lapides is the co-founder, President, and CEO of Rhode Island real estate firm Residential Properties.
Lapides has been quoted in many local and national publications as a real estate specialist. During her career, Lapides has served on the boards at the RISD Museum, Roger Williams University, Smith Hill Center, and Trinity Repertory Company, among others -- and as Chair of the Board of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Action Campaign Committee, helped raise a million dollars for the Fund for the LGBT community.
Pattie, the CEO and President of BankNewport and OceanPoint Financial Partners, MHC, began her career with the bank in 1984 as a consumer loan officer, rising through ranks and across different areas of expertise.
Pattie is a board member of the United Way of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Bankers Association as well as a trustee of the Community College of Rhode Island. She is also a certified financial planner and a member of the Board of Governors for Newport Hospital.
Coxe is the Executive Director and CEO of the Preservation Society of Newport County. Before holding this position, Coxe served as the Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs, Executive Director of Rhode Island’s Save the Bay, and Director of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Coxe has received numerous awards for her business success, including the 2011 Business Women Award for Overall Career Achievement from the Providence Business News. She also does extensive volunteer work, including sitting on the boards of Grow Smart Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Commodores. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Conservation Law Foundation and the Alumni Board of the Wheeler School.
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