Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Pay-chasm assertion wake-up call for city


Lakishia Hill told a Pine Bluff City Council committee this week that her pay should be adjusted because she was not receiving even as much as a boss she replaced almost 16 years ago.

Hill, the city’s zoning official, unsuccessf­ully sued the city years ago saying the discrepanc­y was because of gender discrimina­tion. But even if she didn’t make any headway in federal court then, it doesn’t mean that her pay is correct now.

All in all, it was a good wake-up call for city officials to hear from Hill, in that everyone who works for the city should have their pay reviewed to make sure it is in line with the jobs they are performing and in line with their seniority.

Alderwoman Joni Alexander pointed out to the committee that it wasn’t so much that Hill deserved a raise; it was that her pay was just never handled fairly.

“It’s because the way she was hired was not done properly like a lot of other women that are underpaid compared to their male counterpar­ts,” Alexander said.

We are guessing that, once the city does dig into the whole wage structure picture, it will find other instances of unfairness, especially between males and females in the same jobs. But this is a good time to assess the situation and make amends.

The mayor has been asking the council to pay some positions at a higher rate because the higher amount is what it will take to bring that person in. As those adjustment­s are made, officials need to keep in mind what it would take to fill positions.

As Alexander said, if Hill quit today and the city had to fill that spot, chances are officials would have to pay more than they’re paying Hill, especially if they want someone with even half of Hill’s experience.

Such moments in time can be painful, financiall­y, as pay levels have to be raised to make them fair and reasonable. Alderman Ivan Whitfield noted such a possibilit­y.

“We’ve done some things this year with other people, and sometimes this may be the spark that makes us rise to the occasion and look at everybody across the board,” he told the committee. “Yes, it’s going to open up Pandora’s box, but we might as well get ready for it because it’s coming.”

But if that means employees will receive what they should be paid — and perhaps should have been paid for years — well, that will allow everyone to sleep better at night. And stay out of federal court.

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