The Law That Protects Equal Wages for Women
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires employers to pay male and female employees equally for the same work.
Technically it promotes pay equity for men as well as women, but it was crafted to remedy the strongly entrenched pay disparities faced by women at the time it was passed. Prior to the passage of this law, women were frequently paid less than men for the same job, and some states restricted their hours by law as well.
However, even with the Equal Pay Act in place, there is still a pay disparity between men and women. Women in general earn approximately 82 cents to a man’s dollar, and the pay gap is significantly wider for women of color.
In other words, there are still loopholes that allow employers to pay women less—or try to. Here are a few things to know about the Equal Pay Act—and how to tell if your employer is violating it.
What “Equal Work” Means
Two jobs don’t have to be exactly identical, with the same job title, to be considered “equal work” under the law. If you and your colleague are performing the same tasks on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter what your job titles or official descriptions are.
Generally, courts tend to consider two jobs “equal” when they both require the same level of effort, skill, and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions. Small variations in those factors don’t suddenly make the jobs unequal.
Some employers try to get around this by adding a few extra duties to the higher-paying job. Sometimes this works, as it’s totally reasonable to pay more for additional duties.
However, the courts tend to notice when all or most of the jobs with “extra duties” go to employees of a specific gender.
What Constitutes “Equal Pay?”
The Equal Pay Act doesn’t require that all employees get identical paychecks. For instance, if pay is tied to performance, such as sales or productivity, it’s legal to pay the higher-performing worker more.
But if your company is not giving you equal benefits—such as health care coverage, retirement savings, profit-sharing opportunities, or other fringe benefits—they may be in violation of the EPA.
How To Know if Your Employer Has Violated the Equal Pay Act
To prove that your employer has violated your rights under the Equal Pay Act, you must demonstrate that you and a colleague of the opposite sex are working in the same location, doing the same work, and receiving different pay.
However, even if you can show a clear pay disparity, your employer can argue that there’s a good reason for it. For example, if the other employee has a more advanced degree, more experience, or higher seniority, courts may agree that the pay disparity is justified.
Are You Being Treated Equally Under the EPA?
If you’re not sure, you should talk to a qualified employment lawyer.
A knowledgeable employment attorney can assess your situation, determine whether your rights have been violated, and help you recover compensation for the unfair treatment.
We have helped hundreds of employees recover unpaid wages and other benefits in these situations, and we can help you. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.