Talonya Adams is an attorney who was a policy advisor to Arizona Democratic state Senators, led by current AZ Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, when she discovered that her pay was not equal to that of male staffers of equivalent experience — it was much lower. Most women aren't surprised to learn this sort of thing, right? Yet, it still stings. Add to this insult, though, a racial dimension: the fact that Ms. Adams is Black, and her fellow staffers were not.
Making this even more outrageous was the degree of disparity. Ms. Adams was making a full $30,000 less than her non-Black male counterparts with the same experience. She'd never received a raise during her tenure, despite the fact that she never received negative feedback about her job performance. Additionally, she claimed in her lawsuit that her job was more burdensome and restrictive, in that she was not permitted to pick her own committee assignments, and bore a heavier workload than her colleagues. When she asked for a raise directly, she received no response, and then was fired while on leave for a family emergency.
Ms. Adams filed a lawsuit, and represented herself. She received some preparation help from Jocquese L. Blackwell and his partners, Stephen Montoya and Gillmore Bernard. But she argued her own case.
A Senate lawyer also told the judge it wasn’t appropriate to compare the compensation of Adams, a Democratic policy adviser, with that of Republican policy advisers even if they had the same job title and responsibilities because “the majority caucus pays differently than the minority caucus.”
An eight-person jury disagreed Friday, finding in favor of Adams on all counts and awarding her $1 million in compensatory damages. She may receive more at a punitive damages hearing set for Aug. 14.
Even more stoically and tellingly, Talonya Adams did not ask for specific damages. She only asked for the jury to award what they believed was fair, one that sent a message. Well, that it did. And it may send an even louder message on August 14th.
“I really hope that the state of Arizona takes this (verdict) to heart, because the state did her wrong,” Montoya said. “I understand that the state’s a very large employer and that sometimes employers that size make mistakes. But what the state should do is try to make things right when it makes a mistake, and what it did in this case was try to get away with it.”
As Laurie Roberts wrote in her editorial for the Arizona Republic, cheering Ms. Adams and the jury's verdict,
The message for Hobbs and for Senate Democrats – the party, by the way, that often carries the banner for equal pay -- is unmistakable. But it's also a message every other Arizona employer should hear and heed here in the year of our Lord 2019.
It's beyond ridiculous that women, especially women of color, still aren't getting a fair shake and good for Talonya Adams for providing a powerful reminder of that.
Indeed. Democrats and those on the left are often in the most deep denial about the racism and sexism that exist in our own ranks. Until that changes, nothing else will.