Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, a landmark piece of legislation designed to eliminate pay discrimination against women that paved the way for many other anti-discrimination laws. President Kennedy originally signed the bill into law on June 10, 1963; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a gender gap between salaries still exists, with women earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. In fact, the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred in 829 cases of pay discrimination from 2000 to 2009, recovering $52.7 million for aggrieved parties.
The White House released this report prepared by the National Equal Pay Task Force, which suggests additional legislation (like the Paycheck Fairness Act) could help close the pay gap. If and until then, what are your rights in the workplace? What can you do if you feel you have been paid unfairly because of your gender?
The Equal Pay Act guarantees women and men equal pay for equal work (meaning substantially equal job content, i.e. skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions) under the same employer. All forms of pay (salary, overtime, vacation pay, severance pay, benefits, etc.) are included. The EPA deals only with the issue of equal pay; it does not cover discrimination in hiring and promotion. Someone who has an EPA claim probably also has claim under Title VII, which covers other types of workplace discrimination.
The following are not valid reasons for your employer to deny you equal pay:
“It costs more to hire women for this position, so I’m going to pay you less.”
“You’re paid differently because you have a different job title.”
“Your male co-workers make more money because men have historically done this job.”
A person with a potential EPA claim need not exhaust administrative remedies at the workplace before filing a complaint in federal court, which can be done within three years of the alleged unequal compensation practice. Under Lilly-Ledbetter, each new practice of unequal compensation restarts the clock. If you feel you are receiving unfair/unequal pay because of your gender, contact a South Carolina employment lawyer and file a claim with the EEOC.