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How can I tell if I am receiving equal pay as a woman?

Pay discrimination has a long history in the United States. Although there are laws that should guide businesses and employers away from paying women less than men for doing the same job, it is not always followed. Unfortunately, this leaves many women earning less than their male counterparts, even though they deserve higher pay.

There are two specific laws that cover equal pay for women and wage discrimination against women:

  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA): a federal law that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate in how much they pay employees based on gender. The EPA is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act and aims to solve the problem of pay inequity between men and women who have the same duties at work.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating based on gender, race, national origin and religion when determining decisions on hiring, firing and how much they will pay an employee. This law covers employers who have 15 or more employees.

What do these laws require employers to do when determining my pay?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act broadly makes it illegal to discriminate among wages based on gender. The EPA requires employers to pay men and women equally if they are performing duties that take similar: 1)skill, 2) effort and 3) responsibility. The two employees also need to be working under similar working conditions. An employer is breaking the law when a man and a woman, who work in the same place and are doing the same job duties or equal work are receiving unequal pay.

An employer is not breaking the law, however, if a man and woman are getting unequal pay based on the following things:

  • A seniority system where more senior employees are paid higher wages
  • A merit system in which certain achievements constitute higher pay
  • A performance review system or another system that measures quantity or quality of work, and bases pay off of that
  • Another basis for pay not related to the gender of employees

What does "equal work" mean?

Equal work does not mean your job description is identical, or that you even have the same job title. The law refers to the actual work you are doing, regardless of description or title. If one employee has extra skills they are using on the job, that warrants higher pay and is legal. If one person is performing extra duties, that also legally allows the employer to pay that person more.

What should I do if I think I am experiencing pay discrimination based on my gender?

An employee must show that a male counterpart who is doing the same job is getting paid a different wage or salary than her. Proving that you are doing "equal work" can be difficult, but an employment attorney can help you figure out if there is enough evidence for a case. Speaking up against discrimination can not only help the discrimination against you stop, but help future employees from being discriminated against.

You can file a discrimination claim under either the EPA or Title VII. One advantage of filing an EPA claim is that you do not need to prove that your employer intentionally discriminated. Even if it was an accident or something they did not mean to do, it is illegal and easier for you to win the case if you don't have to prove intent. An advantage of Title VII however, is you can be awarded more money in court if you win --- you can not only recover lost wages, but get compensation for pain and suffering.

You can file an EPA claim two to three years after the discrimination took place, while Title VII has a statute of limitations of 180 days. An employment law attorney can help you figure out where to start, or answer other questions about how you can tell you are being discriminated against at work. An attorney can also advise you on what steps you should take if you are experiencing discrimination.

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