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The Pay Gap is Real: What Women Need to Know

January 9, 2019 Workplace Discrimination

The Equal Pay Act offers protection

If you suspect you’re not making as much as your male colleagues, you’re not alone. This is, sadly, far more common than you’d think in 2019. But you do have options—and you can fight back.

Many women get paid less than men who are in the same roles, despite having similar experience and education.

What is the Equal Pay Act?

The Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963 by President Kennedy as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It mandates that employers provide “equal pay for equal work.”  

That phrase refers to the expectation that employees in the same workplace be paid the same, regardless of gender, race, and other factors—although the phrase is usually used to refer to the gender wage gap. The “pay” in “equal pay” refers not just to salary, but also bonuses, allowances, and benefits.

The Equal Pay Act establishes that people of all genders must be paid the same for work that requires similar:

  • Skill
  • Effort
  • Responsibility
  • Done under similar working conditions
  • In the same establishment

This is true even when the jobs aren’t 100% identical.

Here’s a breakdown of what each requirement means:

Skill: All the experiences, abilities, education, and training needed to do your job are encompassed under “skills.” If your qualifications are more or less equal to your colleague’s in the same job, you should be getting paid the same.

Effort: This refers to both the mental and physical exertion required to do the job. For example, if two manufacturing jobs are very similar except only one of the jobs requires heavy lifting, the one that requires the lifting can legally pay more.

Responsibility: This refers to how much accountability you carry in the job. Some minor responsibility increases don’t translate to a raise, but when your decisions have major impact on others or the business as a whole, you’re entitled to more compensation.

Working conditions: How dangerous or unpleasant is your workplace? Factors to take into account include noise, ventilation, temperature, fumes, and hazards.

If you work under the same conditions as a better-paid colleague (and put up with the same hazards), this can be an important building block in your case for pay discrimination. 

Establishment: The Equal Pay Act applies to jobs within a single establishment or physical place of business. However, if your employer hires employees at a central location and sends them to different work sites, it may also fall under the jurisdiction of the Equal Pay Act.

What are your rights to fair pay?

Under the Equal Pay Act, women have the right to be paid as much as their male peers for work that requires similar skills and education, responsibility, and effort, under the same working conditions and for the same establishment.

There are legitimate reasons for employers to pay some of their employees differently. If your better-paid male colleague has more education, experience, or responsibility; if his job requires more effort or physical challenge; or if he’s working under more dangerous conditions, for example.

Some employers have pay structures based on things like merit, education, or production rates. Under these, some employees may be paid more than others for similar jobs, but the disparity has nothing to do with gender.

What should you do if you suspect wage discrimination?

Your first step should be to talk to an experienced attorney who specializes in employment law. Your lawyer will help you determine whether you have a case—and guide your strategy to help you win. 

Do you suspect you’re getting paid less than male co-workers? You can fight back—and we can help. Email us at or call us at 267-273-1054 for a free confidential consultation.