Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 24, 2009

Zoning Director and Planning Director Positions Not Necessarily Required to Offer Equal Pay

The County Zoning Director, a female, brought a lawsuit under the federal Equal Pay Act, claiming that the County violated the Act by paying her $15,000 less than it pays the male Planning Director.  She alleged that the positions of Zoning Director and Planning Director are equal positions because they require equal skill, effort and responsibility and are performed under similar working conditions.  

The District Court explained that under the federal Equal Pay Act, the controlling factor is the “actual duties that the respective employees are called upon to perform,” and not job titles and job descriptions. Further, the Court noted that the focus of the analysis in on the primary duties of the job rather than on duties that are merely incidental or insubstantial. Here, the Court found that the County carried its initial burden of providing affirmative evidence that the two positions had different responsibilities and that the Planning Director had responsibility for three critically important duties that are not substantially equal to the responsibilities of the Zoning Director. Specifically, the Court noted that the Planning Director is responsible for preparation of the Area Transportation Study, which constitutes a majority of the Planning Director’s responsibilities.  Second, the Planning Director is responsible for managing grants received by the commission which requires development of work programs, formulation of tasks, elimination of costs, assignment of projects, the filing of quarterly progress reports and annual reports.  Finally, the Planning Director is responsible for preparation of the comprehensive plan.  The Plaintiff Zoning Director failed to meet her burden of demonstrating that her responsibilities were equal.  She did not provide any evidence of work responsibilities comparable to the Area Transportation Study, and the Court did not agree with her assertion that her responsibility to manage permitting fees is substantially equal to the management of a grant process. As to the Planning Director’s responsibility for the comprehensive plan, the Plaintiff stated that her responsibilities for ensuring that the Commission complies with certain laws and regulations.  This, however, said the Court, alleges a comparable worth argument and does not establish the equality of the two positions. The Court concluded, “These types of general comparisons between job duties are simply not sufficient to establish the substantial identity of job functions necessary to sustain a prima facie case for an EPA violation.”

Brown v. Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission, 2009 WL 1951060 (M.D. Ga. 7/6/2009).


  1. Compared to other planning directors around the country, Maryland planning directors don’t do that much. Under 66B s 1.03, comprehensive plans only need to includ 5 elements, and one of those is only a recommendation. Compare that to Idaho, where 15 elements are required to be in the comprehensive plan. Plus, the county comprehensive plan doesn’t have to include any sort of zoning plan, so the Zoning Director had the burden of creating the county’s zoning from scratch, not ot mention complying with chapter 66B’s section 8 cumbersome historic area zoning requirements. And, it’s not like the Planning Director was even entirely responsible for the comprehensive plan. Under 66B s 3.05(a)(1), its the duty of the planning commission to do that.

    I’ve worked with planning and zoning directors, and they’re not exaclty cashing in. Maryland citizens may have the highest median income in the country, but $15,000 is still a pretty big salary gap. I hope appeals court takes a harder look at exactly what the Planning Director does.

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