United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
V. S. GRANADE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment
and brief in support filed by Defendant Alabama Power Company
(“APCo”). (Doc. 32; Doc. 33). Plaintiff Myra Paul
Cochran (“Cochran”) filed a response in
opposition (Doc. 42), to which APCo replied (Doc. 43). Based
on the following, the Court GRANTS APCo's motion.
NATURE OF THE CASE
cause of action arises from a pay dispute between Cochran and
APCo, her employer. In her First Amended Complaint, Cochran
alleges APCo required her to complete work substantially
similar to male comparators but for significantly less pay in
violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”),
29 U.S.C. § 201, et sequentes. (Doc. 16, p. 2).
Also, within the same count, Cochran contends APCo denied her
the opportunity to earn additional income through out-of-town
“storm work” but allowed her male comparators to
“enjoy[ ] the lucrative assignments on a regular
basis.” Id. APCo now moves for summary
judgment on all counts. Cochran responds that a genuine issue
of material fact exists as to the substantial similarity
between her work and her comparator's work. Cochran,
however, concedes that her claim based on out-of-town storm
work “is due to be dismissed.” (Doc. 42, p. 4).
Therefore, the Court GRANTS APCo's motion in as much as
Count I alleges gender discrimination in assigning
out-of-town storm work. The parties having fully briefed the
remaining EPA issue, this matter is ripe for consideration.
AGREED FACTS 
has employed Cochran since 1985. Cochran served as an office
clerk for the first several years of her employment. As an
office clerk, Cochran processed paperwork for various APCo
engineers. In 1999, Cochran secured a position as a
Technician I in the Mobile Division of APCo's Power
Delivery Distribution Department. APCo promoted Cochran to
Senior Technician in 2000, which is the position Cochran has
held since that time. Since 2003, Cochran has worked in the
Mobile-Hillcrest APCo office, one of several branches within
the Mobile Division. From 2003 until June 2016, James (Jim)
Dunning (“Supervisor Dunning”), the Engineering
Supervisor for the Mobile-Hillcrest office, was Cochran's
immediate supervisor. Additionally, Supervisor Dunning was
the supervisor of Cochran's two male comparators: Joe
Costa and Hank Anderson.
Cochran's Duties as a Senior Technician
describes her Senior Technician position as, “in
layman's terms, I'm probably an engineering
aide.” (Doc. 34-4, p. 5). Cochran's duties are
geographically limited to the West Mobile section of the
Wilmer community and part of the Town of Semmes. Wilmer is
predominately rural; Semmes is slightly more urban. In
servicing her territory, Cochran works to establish and
maintain power delivery to new and existing APCo customers
through electricity distribution systems, including the
design, inventory, permitting, and cost estimates relating to
said systems. The majority of Cochran's work focuses on
establishing power for customers, “usually a
mom-and-pop or some young people, ” who are seeking to
establish power to a mobile home or some other type of
building. (Doc. 34-4, p. 6). Additionally, Cochran responds
to customer complaints, inspects outages, and performs other
maintenance-type work for customers in her territory.
Cochran submits a work estimate to her supervisor for
approval once she has examined a customer's request for
power, prepared an inventory, and diagrammed a plan.
Occasionally, Cochran's supervisor spots an error in her
work, thereupon corrections are made or changes to the
estimate are discussed with Cochran before approving the
project. Upon supervisor approval of the plan, APCo issues
the plan to a crew foreman, who actually performs the work
related to the power delivery project at issue.
Background and the Duties of the Male Comparators
and Anderson, the male comparators mentioned above, are both
Distribution Specialist I in the Mobile-Hillcrest office.
Costa became a Senior Distribution Specialist at APCo in
January 1994, then a Distribution Specialist I in October
2015. Before becoming a Distribution Specialist, Costa
obtained field experience as a utility man, tree trimmer, and
became a Senior Technician in April 2003, a Distribution
Specialist in March 2005, and then a Senior Distribution
Specialist in December 2008. Like Costa, Anderson became a
Distribution Specialist I in October 2015. Before becoming a Senior
Technician and Distribution Specialist, Anderson obtained
field and line crew experience working as a truck driver and
lineman for nearly seven years.
and Anderson are also responsible for engineering, designing,
and maintaining electricity distribution systems across an
assigned territory. But Costa and Anderson primarily work on
jobs that are larger, more complicated, and often more
commercial (i.e., more complex distribution systems,
more connections, more equipment, and greater budget). For
example, Costa and Anderson work underground subdivisions.
Cochran testified she has never done such work. (Doc. 34-4,
p. 15). Additionally, Anderson has completed large-scale
commercial power setups, such as setting up power to a
shopping center anchored by Gander Mountain outdoor stores.
order to qualify to complete such complex tasks, each
Distribution Specialist candidate is required to reach two
mandatory milestones, which are outlined in APCo literature
provided to Cochran. First, each Distribution Specialist
candidate must successfully complete Electric System
Operation Procedure (“ESOP”)
pass a test signifying that the employee is qualified to
perform switching work on the APCo electricity operating
system (i.e., these employees know how and when to
turn power on and off to a certain portion of a distribution
line in coordination with line crews working a particular
project). Second, a Distribution Specialist I is required to
be on the Official Clearance List. This list is essentially
those employees who have passed the ESOP. Supervisor Dunning
explained that achieving these milestones demonstrates a
Distribution Specialist I's knowledge and experience of
what decisions to make, and when to make them, on complex
issues, which enables the Distribution Specialist I to
understand and complete larger, more complex projects.
Moreover, a Distribution Specialist candidate must
demonstrate through day-to-day observation a sufficient
understanding of the APCo distribution system.
acknowledged in testimony that in her job position, Senior
Technician, she is not on the “switching list to give
switching instructions to the line crew or whoever is opening
and closing the switches out in the field, because there is a
procedure for that. You have to pass the test and know all
the ins and outs.” (Doc. 34-4, p. 14). Cochran further
explained switching is, indeed, a “life and
death” matter. Id. at 15. Because mistakes can
be deadly, APCo strictly scrutinizes the capabilities of
those tasked with switching work.
and Anderson have successfully completed ESOP training and
are on the Clearance List. Both Costa and Anderson regularly
perform switching work on APCo distribution lines in the
performance of their jobs as Distribution Specialist I.
Supervisor Dunning ...