The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 in hopes of correcting a vast disparity in the payment of wages to women. Unfortunately, even today, women are earning only about 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man. But pay discrimination is not limited to lower paying jobs defined by an hourly wage. Wage discrimination occurs across the whole spectrum of employment in our economy, including at the executive level. It can also involve refusals to pay equal monetary benefits like stock options, incentive bonuses or valuable employment perks like vacation time or travel allowances. Clearly, equal pay laws are still important and necessary to correct these imbalances.
At its most basic level, an employer will violate the Equal Pay Act if it is paying lower wages to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for performing substantially the same work under similar working conditions. Although it is typical to find these violations directed at women, men too can sue under the Equal Pay Act.
In order to evaluate a case under the Equal Pay Act, there are many questions that can arise: What are wages? What is a violation? What is meant by an establishment and to whom are you allowed to compare yourself? Our firm can help you answer these questions. For instance, wages are defined as all payments including even fringe benefits like stock options. A violation would occur with each paycheck. An establishment is usually a single facility and a comparable person must be an actual person of the opposite sex. Other questions involve the definition of equal work and similar working conditions. Equal work focuses on an employee’s actual duties and examines the skill, effort and responsibility associated with the job. The similarity of working conditions looks to the worker’s surroundings and job hazards. To answer these questions completely it is important to obtain competent legal counsel.
Of course, employers do have some defenses to an equal pay claim. These include payment of compensation based on seniority, merit, an incentive system or due to any other factor that is not based on a person’s sex. Factors other than sex is the catch-all and is very broad; however, the factors must be neutral as to gender, consistently applied, explain the difference in pay and be job related or based on some business rationale. Some examples would be pay for education, experience or training, shift differentials, job classification systems and temporary or part-time work.
If an employee suspects an equal pay violation, he or she can file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or proceed directly to Court. However, damages can only be recovered back two years prior to filing a case or three years if it is shown that the employer acted willfully.Remedies
If an equal pay violation is proven, employees can recover back pay loss, a pay adjustment going forward, liquidated or double back pay damages and attorneys’ fees. The Equal Pay Act also protects employees from retaliation for reporting violations or pursuing claims.
This summary is just an overview of equal pay law, if you have concerns or have additional questions, we can help guide you and, if necessary, represent you before the EEOC or in Court. To further discuss your situation, you can call us toll free at 1-855-774-3675, send us an e-mail, or fill out a consultation request form and we will contact as soon as possible.