By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Powell public works department employee is suing the Park County Board of Commissioners and the Park County Public Works Department, alleging she was paid less than her male counterparts because of gender discrimination.
According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court, Sparkie Cornett worked as a seasonal employee for the county’s public works department from 2014 until 2016, when she was hired on as a full-time equipment operator.
Cornett was trained to drive a commercial truck, operate a front-end loader and other equipment, repair potholes, lay gravel and more. She was hired at $13.71 per hour.
Cornett performed her job with equal skill, effort and responsibility and under the same conditions as the men in the department, the lawsuit said. In 2017, she was promoted and received a pay raise to $14.59 an hour and was given a cost-of-living adjustment (along with the rest of the department) one year later.
Cornett was again promoted but without a payment increase, and in June 2018, she was transferred to the Powell office of the Public Works Department, where she still is employed. She is supervised by Delray “Paco” Johnson, who has been her boss since her transfer.
Upon her transfer to Powell, Cornett was no longer trained on new equipment and was separated from the rest of the crew in work duties, which stalled her career and pay increases, the lawsuit said.
She was also not allowed to work overtime on Fridays, although her male counterparts were allowed to do so.
In 2018, the department hired a man as a higher-level equipment operator, although he did not meet the qualifications for the job and had to be trained to operate the heavy equipment and on the county road systems, the lawsuit said In 2020, this man was paid $43,494.36.
In 2019, another man was hired to be a higher-level equipment operator, but did not have the experience necessary for the job, so he had to be trained. In 2020, this man was paid $34,742.60, the lawsuit said.
In 2020, Cornett was paid $32,041.01 for performing work equal to that performed by the other two men. This was again the case in 2021, the lawsuit said.
While Cornett was promoted twice in 2021 and her pay was increased to $17.40 an hour, she claimed in the lawsuit that she had more seniority, experience operating heavy equipment and knowledge of the county road systems than the two men who were hired at a higher salary.
She is asking for back pay and all other appropriate monetary and equitable relief in an amount to be determined by a jury at trial.