The Gender Pay Gap and Prevalence of Pay Discrimination in the Workplace
Women make up nearly half of the labor force today. Despite this fact, a pay gap exists between men and women in the workforce. According to one study, in 2018, working women made only 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues. Unfortunately, pay discrimination against women remains far too common in the workplace. Between 1997 and 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) received approximately 22,861 complaints alleging pay discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA).
The Law Prohibits Pay Discrimination in the Workplace
Congress passed the EPA to prevent employers from engaging in pay discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. To establish a pay discrimination claim under the EPA, a plaintiff must prove that:
- she performed work that was “substantially equal” to male employees at their workplace;
- she and a male employee did their jobs under similar working conditions; and that
- her employer paid her less money than a male employee for doing substantially equal work.
In deciding whether a plaintiff and her higher-paid male coworker had jobs that were “substantially equal,” a court may compare the skill, effort, and responsibility needed to do the work. The jobs do not have to be identical in these areas, so minor differences between them are irrelevant. A court may also consider the actual day-to-day job requirements. Job classifications, descriptions, and titles are not controlling.
In deciding whether jobs require “equal skill,” a court may consider various factors including whether people need essentially the same experience, training, education, and ability to do the work. Jobs may require “equal skill” even if one job does not require workers to use these skills as often as another job.
In deciding whether jobs require “equal effort,” a court may consider the physical or mental energy that a person in a particular job must use at work. “Equal effort” does not require people to use effort in exactly the same way. If there is no substantial difference in the amount or degree of effort needed to do the jobs, they require “equal effort.”
In deciding whether jobs involve “equal responsibility,” a court may consider how accountable someone is in doing his or her job, including how much authority an employee has and the importance of his or her job.
Notably, a Plaintiff need not prove that her employer paid her less because she was female in order for the employer to be liable under the EPA. Unlike Title VII disparate treatment claims where a plaintiff normally must prove intent, the EPA creates a type of strict liability for employers in that intent to discriminate need not be shown to hold an employer liable for pay discrimination.
When to Contact an Employment Lawyer About Pay Discrimination
If you have experienced pay discrimination in the workplace, it’s imperative that you take action immediately. Because of the complicated administrative process, short filing deadlines, and maze of employment laws that might apply to your case, victims of pay discrimination should contact the Wagoner Law Firm without delay for a free case evaluation.