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Berkeley County Commission hears sex bias complaint

July 24, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Assessor's Office has been discriminating against its female employees when it comes to salaries and pay increases, the husband of a former employee told the Berkeley County Commission Thursday.

Bruce Gipe, of Martinsburg, asked the commission to look into the alleged unfair treatment that he said led his wife, Niki Gipe, 52, to resign from her job of 10 years earlier this month.

He said they already contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Pittsburgh and were told it would look into the grievance if they submitted salary records to back up the claim.

A spokesman for the EEOC in Washington, D.C., said he couldn't confirm or deny if his office has been contacted by the Gipes.

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Gipe said he was speaking for his wife because she didn't want to come before the commission and they are both concerned about the women who still work there.

The inequity in treatment of men and women in the office became a problem in February, when two male employees were given $4,000 raises, far exceeding the county's employee handbook guidelines, Gipe said.

Female employees went to their boss, Berkeley County Assessor Mearle Spickler, with their complaints and were promised a two-step raise of $1,320 effective in July, he said.

On July 1, Spickler called them in one at a time and told them the county commission rejected the raises, Gipe said.

That's when his wife told Spickler she'd resign if she didn't get the raise, and Spickler accepted her resignation, he said.

Under the county's guidelines, no one should make more than the office's supervisor, yet two men under the female supervisor make more money, Gipe said.

The guidelines also specify that new hires start at $13,200, but a man hired recently started at $15,000, he said.

Gipe failed to take into consideration the different job descriptions of employees, Spickler said.

He said he acted in good faith in the salary decisions.

Spickler said his position was the entry-level salary is too low and the office needed to move everybody up the pay scale.

County Commission President Jim Smith said it was apparent that the handbook wasn't followed, but Niki Gipe also didn't follow the handbook by resigning rather than following the grievances procedures.

Smith said the county commission has a serious problem to deal with.

"We need to figure out what's right, fair and legal to get out of it," Smith said. "This is going to have to be a head-knocking work session."

Gipe said he would give the commission 30 days to resolve the problem or pursue the EEOC complaint.

The commissioners went into a closed session with Spickler to discuss the claims.

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