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Discrimination Suit: Female Reporter Files Against RI Public Radio

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


Former Rhode Island Public Radio reporter Flo Jonic has struck out against her recent employer, after filing a sex discrimination complaint over pay equity.

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.

See Discrimination Charge Filed HERE

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.  

Flo Jonic

"When I saw the article by Donnis on pay equity, I lost it," said Jonic. "I like Ian, he's done nothing wrong. The station says they're paying him the $75,000 due to a grant from the Hamblett foundation.  I make two-thirds that.  I don't think that's a valid excuse."

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.

Taking Action

Jonic said her recent medical leave was for health issues which have caused her to lose nearly 100 pounds.

"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." 


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