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Why We Need an Equal Pay Act

 

Even in the 21st century, women securing equal pay for performing the same type of work as men remains a challenge. While this is often difficult to detect due to employer confidentiality measures, there are still people who discover wage disparity and wish to address it. They have this relief under the Equal Pay Act.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, full-time female workers made 79 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2015. At the rate women’s wages grow, it will currently take 44 years for women to reach parity with men. Although there can be many reasons for this gap, the truth still remains: If you are female and discover your wages are below those of your male colleagues who perform the same duties, you have a claim under the Equal Pay Act. The same is true in the rare instances where male workers are underpaid in comparison to their female coworkers.

April 12 is Equal Pay Day in order to bring awareness to this situation. It is a day most women would prefer to do without as this issue remains persistent—even in the legal field where you would think people would know better. If you discover that your employer pays different rates to male and female employees, contact an employment law attorney to investigate and likely, proceed with a claim.

Overview of the Equal Pay Act

President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law on June 10, 1963. It was an amendment of the Fair Labor Standards Act which covers minimum wage, overtime pay, and maximum hours worked. When it was felt the Fair Labor Standards Act was inadequate on its own to address the wage gap, the Equal Pay Act implemented additional provisions.

The focus of the act is on women because they are more likely to face wage disparity. If men discovered women received higher wages in their workplaces, they would also have a claim under the act. The act prevents wage discrimination based on gender and does not limit that protection to women.

All workers receive protection under the act since there are few exceptions. It has made improvements: At the time the act passed in 1963, women’s wages were 59 cents to every dollar earned by men.  While society is growing into equal treatment, there remains a need to provide a cause of action when employers are not behaving in an enlightened fashion.

Filing a Claim under the Equal Pay Act

To establish a wage claim under the Equal Pay Act, you need to show that you and a coworker of the opposite sex:

*Work for the same employer;

*Perform equal work duties; and

*Receive unequal pay

Your employer can counter the claim by showing there is a reasonable basis for the wage disparity. For example, your coworker may have five more years of experience than you or perform more complex duties. Although, work does not have to be identical to be considered equal. If the work is the same but the titles are different, the court will still see the similarity. Generally, work is considered equal if it requires the same skill, responsibility, and effort under the same conditions in the work environment.

However, disparities in how duties are assigned could rise to a sex discrimination claim based on the circumstances. If this is the case in your claim, another action under the Civil Rights Act can also be pursued if there is any hiring, firing or promotions occurring that affect one gender more than the other.

Equal Pay Act claims are easier because there does not have to be proof of an intention to discriminate. These are straight-up numbers: If there is a wage disparity and no reasonable basis for it, your employer owes you back wages to make up for that inequity. It is common to file several different claims at once in these matters because frequently, other discrimination issues also arise alongside the one regarding payment.

Possible Claim? Contact an Employment Attorney

Wood Law is an employment law firm in Chicago that represents both employees and employers. The insight gained in employer matters offers particular advantages to employees seeking equity in wages. J. Brian Wood will represent you at all stages of your claim from negotiation to court proceedings. You will find our approach to these matters is knowledgeable and dedicated.

You can arrange for a free consultation through our online form or call the office at (866) 629-4679. Our expertise and knowledge of employment law will prove to be an asset as you pursue pay equity. Contact us today to start resolving this matter and secure the equal wages owed to you.