Employee Issue:

Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination

Pay discrimination is prohibited by several federal laws including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Together, these federal regulations mandate that employers compensate their workers without consideration of age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability or color. Compensation can include salary, bonuses, life insurance, benefits, vacation pay, holiday pay, stock options and similar forms of pay.

The Equal Pay Act mandates that women and men receive equal pay for equal work. The two positions do not need to be identical, but rather substantially “equal.” Job content, rather than titles, determines whether jobs are equal. Particularly, the Equal Pay Act states that employers cannot pay unequal wages to men and women who, within the same establishment, carry out jobs that require “equal skill, effort, and responsibility” under similar working conditions.

Skill: When determining if jobs are equal, factors such as education, training and experience are considered. It is important to analyze what skills are necessary for the job, rather than what skills each employee possesses. For instance, two paralegals would be considered equal under federal law, even if one possesses a degree in Biology, as this education is not needed for the position.

Effort: The amount of mental or physical effort required to perform a job is considered when determining the equality of positions. For instance, consider a group of men and women working together on an assembly line. The individual at the end must lift the completed project onto a shelf. This individual exerts more effort than others on the line if the lifting action is significant and a regular part of the job.

Responsibility: The amount of responsibility associated with a position is also considered under the Equal Pay Act. For instance, an administrative assistant who determines whether to accept clients’ personal checks has more responsibility than other assistants in the office. In contrast, a job task that carries little responsibility, such as shutting off the lights at the end of the workday, would not mandate a pay differential.

Working Conditions: This provision considers both workplace hazards and physical surroundings. For instance, a male orderly who works in elderly patients’ homes is paid less than a female orderly in the hospital’s geriatric ward. These two locations would not be considered as a difference in working conditions that would validate a pay differential because the job hazards and surroundings of the hospital and the patients’ homes are similar.

Establishment: The Equal Pay Act only prohibits pay discrimination among jobs within the same establishment. Federal law defines an establishment as an actual place of business rather than a whole enterprise made up of several business places. In some cases, however, separate business locations should be considered as a single establishment. For instance, if a main telemarketing unit hires workers, establishes their rate of pay and assigns their job sites, the different work locations could be viewed as one establishment.

Valid pay differences are based on merit, seniority, quality of work or another factor that is not based on gender. When a pay discrimination lawsuit arises, it is the employer’s duty to prove that these factors, rather than sex, determined the pay differential.

If you are not earning equal pay for equal work at your job, fill out the free case review form on the right. A pay discrimination attorney can determine your eligibility for a workplace discrimination lawsuit, at no cost to you.