Since 1963, employees have had the right to be free from compensation discrimination in the workplace. This right is conferred and enforced primarily under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that men and women receive equal pay for equal work. Specifically, this law establishing equal pay rights requires that men and women receive equal pay for jobs that require substantially similar skill, effort, and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions for the same employer. Differences in pay are permitted when they are based on seniority, merit, quantity, or a factor other than gender.
The Equal Pay Act was enacted in response to the then-widely held belief that “a man, because of his role in society, should be paid more than a woman even though his duties are the same.”
To establish a claim for equal pay discrimination, an employee must be able to show that the employer paid the employee less than an employee of a different sex for work that is substantially similar. The jobs do not need to be identical, but must require a similar set of skills and effort, and be performed under the same working conditions.
There are five elements to establishing a claim for workplace compensation discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.
An employee must be able to show that the employer paid different wages to members of a different gender. When analyzing claims under the Equal Pay Act, courts consider all pay an employee receives, including wages, bonuses, expense accounts, vacation, holiday pay, and premium pay for work performed on weekends and holidays, and all forms of compensation regardless of when payment was made.
An employee bringing a claim under the Equal Pay Act does not need to show that the positions are identical. Rather, the employee only needs to show that the jobs are substantially similar with regard to the skill, effort, and responsibility needed to do the job.
To determine whether two jobs require similar skill, courts will consider the experience, training, education, and ability required to perform a particular job. Courts consider whether the two jobs share a “common core” of tasks, and whether one job has additional tasks that make it substantially different from another. Notably, in a claim under the Equal Pay Act an employee does not need to show discriminatory intent, only that the jobs are substantially similar but that the pay is different. .
An employer defending against a claim of compensation discrimination can rebut the charges with one of the following affirmative defenses:
If the employer can establish the existence of one or more of these factors, they may be authorized to pay different wages to different genders.
Finally, the employee can show that the employer’s claimed reason for different pay rates is pretextual, meaning that it was offered as a post-event justification for a gender-based difference in pay rates.
When bringing a claim under the Equal Pay Act, the employee does not need to prove that the compensation discrimination was intentional.
If you believe you have a claim for wage discrimination, contact a skilled and experienced wage discrimination lawyer at Brady & Associates today.