Hope Network accused of gender pay discrimination, lawsuit filed

Posted at 5:36 PM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 18:20:45-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Attorney Katherine Smith Kennedy is representing a woman who says she was underpaid because she's a woman.

"I can tell you that the pay disparity has been a problem for decades and decades," Kennedy said.

The lawsuit filed in federal court accuses Hope Network and CEO Phil Weaver of perpetuating that systemic problem. Kennedy said her client, Allison Reuter, served as Hope Network's chief attorney for seven years before feeling forced out and getting another job.

"She did find out that her successor, in his first week, he was making significantly more than she had made in her seven years," Kennedy explained. "With him having seven years less experience than her."

As the complaint states, Reuter's starting salary at Hope Network was $100,000 in 2008.
By 2015, it rose to $113,000.

According to the complaint, her male successor's starting salary was $150,000 for the same position as general counsel.

"And we actually think he has less areas of responsibility," Kennedy said they'll learn more through a legal process called discovery. The lawsuit also claims he didn't have a law license to practice in Michigan and that he didn't have previous experience at prestigious law firms like Reuter.

Kennedy said despite equal numbers of men and women in the legal field and modest strides made over the years, there's still a giant pay disparity.

"Studies show that males that were doing the same legal work that females were doing, were making 28.5% more than the females," Kennedy said.

FOX 17 reached out to Hope Network and CEO Phil Weaver for comment. A Hope Network spokesperson issued the following statement:

"We are not at liberty to comment on pending litigation, but once it’s closed or dismissed we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have."

Kennedy said Hope Network has 30 days to respond to their complaint under federal guidelines.