Star Flutist Sues Boston Symphony Over Pay Equity

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According to the suit, Ms. Rowe made several previous attempts to have her pay adjusted, beginning in 2015. The orchestra not only declined to equalize her pay with Mr. Ferrillo’s, the suit claims, but also retaliated against her for trying to discuss the issue publicly.

Last December, according to the lawsuit, the orchestra’s management asked her to appear in a National Geographic documentary about gender equity hosted by Katie Couric. But when Ms. Rowe told the orchestra’s administration that she planned to talk about current gender issues, including “known salary discrimination,” the lawsuit says, the invitation was “immediately rescinded.”

Central to the suit is the issue of salary history, which it calls a “tainted variable.” Laws forbidding employers from asking job candidates about previous salary have been passed recently in Massachusetts, Delaware, California, New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

“There’s a growing recognition that an obvious source of perpetuating the pay gap comes from relying on past salary,” said Gillian Thomas, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project.

The new Massachusetts law, like others, also says that salary history cannot be used as a justification for gender disparities. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Ferrillo, who was hired in 2001, had his compensation set at 200 percent of the orchestra’s base rate, to match his previous pay at the Metropolitan Opera, where he was principal oboist from 1986 to 2001.

The suit says Ms. Rowe was hired in 2004 at 154 percent of the base rate. Her current salary, the suit argues, fails to take into account her “accumulated experience” since joining the orchestra, which it calls “substantially equal to what Mr. Ferrillo had when he was hired.”

Elizabeth Rodgers, Ms. Rowe’s lawyer, said in an email that her client hoped to reach “an amicable resolution” with the orchestra, which will hold its annual trustees and overseers week later this month at Tanglewood, its summer home in the Berkshires. She added that Ms. Rowe “sees this as a wonderful opportunity for the B.S.O. to make a positive stand on the right side of one of the most critical social issues of the day.”

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