A world-class musician says she makes 75% of what her male counterparts make. Now she is suing
The top flutist at the Boston Symphony Orchestra is suing the group because she says she makes only 75% of what a male counterpart makes.
Principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe filed the lawsuit July 2 — the day after the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act went into effect.
In the lawsuit, Rowe claims that she is paid less than the principal oboe, viola, trumpet, timpani and horns, which are all held by men.
It says her responsibilities are “substantially similar” to principal oboist John Ferrillo.
“Both the principal oboe and principal flute are leaders of their woodwind sections, they are seated adjacent to each other, they each play with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and are both leaders of the orchestra in similarly demanding roles,” the lawsuit says.
The suit says Ferrillo is the top paid male principal and Rowe is the top paid female principal.
“After removing seniority pay, the top male principal is paid 30% more than the top female principal,” the lawsuit says.
Rowe’s attorney told CNN she had tried to resolve the dispute internally for six months.
“She is saddened that she had to address it in a lawsuit to try to fix this problem,” Elizabeth Rodgers told CNN in an email.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra said in a statement that it was emailed a copy of the lawsuit around 6 p.m. on July 5.
“The BSO will review the complaint with its attorneys, though, as with all such matters, the orchestra will not comment on pending litigation. The BSO is committed to a strong policy of equal employment opportunity and to the practice of comparable pay for comparable work, as well as abiding by the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act,” the statement said.
Ferrillo joined the orchestra in 2001 and was part of the committee that hired Rowe in 2004.
In the lawsuit, Ferrillo is said to have described Rowe as “the finest orchestral flutist in North America and absolutely equal to himself.”
But during the time they have played together, the lawsuit says, Ferrillo has received a guaranteed annual raise, while Rowe has had to negotiate the salary increases she’s gotten.
The lawsuit says Rowe has been chosen to be a featured soloist 27 times since she joined the orchestra in 2004. Ferrillo was a featured soloist 18 times during that period.
It says that since 2015, Rowe has been a “star performer and the face of the BSO,” but the orchestra did not agree to adjust her contract to match Ferrillo’s salary despite repeated requests.
Rowe also claims the orchestra retaliated when she complained about the salary disparity by pulling an invitation to participate in a National Geographic documentary about gender.
She is seeking more than $200,000 in unpaid wages and other damages.
Rodgers said Rowe hopes to reach an amicable settlement with the orchestra.
“Elizabeth Rowe sees this as a wonderful opportunity for the BSO to make a positive stand on the right side of one of the most critical social issues of the day,” Rodgers said. “She has always been an enthusiastic advocate for the BSO and its mission, and she wants to be part of a positive story that reflects well on the organization.”