A former athletic director at Burlington High School in Vermont is suing the district, alleging it had violated the Equal Pay Act upon hiring her successor.
As reported by the Burlington Free Press, Jeanne Hulsen's 22-year tenure leading the BHS athletic department ended this summer when the district redefined the role and hired a younger and less-experienced replacement, Quaron Pinckney, at a higher starting salary, according to the complaint filed last month in U.S. District Court.
The position was reclassified from "Director of Athletics" for the high school to "District Coordinator-Head of Athletics," overseeing the sports programs at BHS and the city's two middle schools, each of which had its own AD until this year.
Pinckney, who came to Burlington after two years as athletic director at Woodstock Union High School, is set to make $87,405.50 in the new role. The complaint presents that in contrast to when Hulsen was hired in 1998 — after four years as the AD of the Herkimer School District in New York — at a base salary of $30,000.
When the latter figure is adjusted for inflation, Hulsen received $39,700 less in 2020 dollars during her first year at BHS than what the district is paying Pinckney, according to the complaint.
Both Hulsen and Pinckney had earned masters degrees prior to being hired by the district, the complaint states.
Among the other points noted in the complaint:
- Hulsen's responsibilities overseeing multiple state championships held each year at BHS facilities.
- Hulsen's duties expanding to support facility use and rentals for Burlington High School summer athletic camps, Burlington Parks and Recreation programs, and football, soccer and baseball rentals.
- Hulsen's administrative assistant was reduced to a half-time position in the 2015-16 school year despite growing responsibilities — then restored to a full-time position for the current school year.
- Pinckney's supervisory responsibilities at Woodstock involved far fewer sports activities and no comparable events.
For the district's alleged violations of federal law and the equal pay provisions of the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act, Hulsen is seeking "all appropriate relief, including back pay, liquidated damages, prejudgment interest, plus attorney's fees, and litigation costs," according to the complaint.
Hulson's attorney, John Franco Jr., said Hulsen had complained to the district in the last year that her salary “was not comparable to what other men were getting for the same job.”
According to Franco, Hulsen’s salary was around $70,300 in her last year of employment at BHS.
Hulsen was contracted for 239 days, while Pinckney's contract is based on 261 days of work, according to Burlington lawyer William Ellis, who is representing the school district.
Ellis said his office "continues to review the lawsuit and will be responding formally" in court on or before Jan. 4.
"By all indications the School District went through an intense vetting process of all applicants for the newly created position of District Coordinator, including Ms. Hulsen," Ellis wrote in an email to the Free Press. "Unfortunately for her, she was not the preferred candidate of either the hiring committee, which consisted of two Board members and the principals of the District’s two middle schools, or the two auxiliary committees made up of community members and students, which made recommendations to the hiring committee."