DENVER — The city of Denver has agreed to pay a top female employee a six-figure settlement to settle a gender pay inequality claim.
"The fact is we still don't value the work of women like we should," said Charlotte Sweeney the attorney who represents Valerie McNaughton.
Sweeney said McNaughton has been a long-time city employee who was hired in 2004 as Denver's lead hearing officer for the Career Service Board.
"She really hears the grievances of the city employees," explained Sweeney.
According to the settlement agreement, Denver will pay McNaughton $460,000. The city also agreed to a rule change for pay equity adjustments that gives city leaders permission to adjust salaries based on these claims.
"A mechanism for other women to say I think I am being paid less can you look at this," said Sweeney.
Sweeney said McNaughton realized she was being paid less than her male counterpart while working on the budget.
"Making more money [than her] despite the fact that she was doing more duties," said Sweeney.
When she raised the issue with the city, Sweeney said city leaders questioned her official job title and challenged that she's not the lead hearing officer.
"When you've been given business cards that say chief hearing officer, when you've received an award from the head of personnel for being the chief hearing officer, words can't really describe the obscurity," she said.
Sweeney said that's when she got involved, and after a year's long battle the city has now agreed to settle.
"For her just the validation that this wasn't made up," said Sweeney.
"What would your message be to other women out there," asked Denver7 Reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.
"The message is you have value and don't underestimate yourself. You have a right to be paid equally. There are laws to protect you. I know it can be hard, but you've got to step up -- now is the time," she said.
“Denver has an excellent track record in ensuring 'like pay for like work' for all of its employees. Our work to advance gender equity across the City and beyond is never done, and this settlement offered the opportunity to reinforce protections that already exist under the current rules," City Attorney Kristin Bronson said in a statement.