How the Equal Pay Act Has Changed
The EPA requires employers to pay men and women equally for performing the same work—hence, the phrase "equal pay for equal work." It applies equally to men and women, but the law was originally passed to help address the wage disparity experienced by female workers. It has almost always been applied to situations where women are paid less than men for doing the same work. The EPA is administered and enforced by the EEOC.
What is meant by equal pay?
A common misconception is that the Equal Pay Act requires that every employee receives the same total amount of compensation. On the contrary, if one employee receives more total compensation because of he is more productive, that may not violate the EPA. However, the Act requires more than simply equal wages. Equality in fringe benefits, such as health and life insurance coverage, retirement plans or pensions, etc., is also required.
Amendments to the EPA
You may have heard of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the new law President Obama signed in 2009. This new law strengthens the Equal Pay Act by increasing the ways an employer can be found liable for unlawful discrimination. Specifically, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act adds the following types of unlawful discrimination:
- A discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted.
- An individual becomes subject to a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice.
- An individual is affected by the application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid, resulting in whole or in part from such a decision or other practice.
The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act's "Paycheck Rule"
Pursuant to the "Paycheck Rule" the statute of limitations, or the deadline for filing a wage claim, resets with every paycheck, benefit or other compensation that is discriminatory. Employees are able to recover back pay and other damages for up to two years preceding the filing of an EEOC charge, as long as the unlawful employment practices that occurred during the charge-filing period are similar or related to practices that occurred previously.
EEOC's proposed rule changes
Just recently, on January 29, 2016, the EEOC published its proposed revisions to its EEO-1 form. The provisions require all employers with 100 or more employees (not just federal contractors) to submit additional data on the wages they pay their employees, including sorting the information by gender, race, and ethnicity.
The purposes of the EEO-1 Form
The EEOC requires organizations with 100 or more employees to invite applicants to self-identify gender and race. The employer then completes an EEO-1 report each year. The purpose of the EEO-1 form is to encourage voluntary compliance with the Equal Pay Act and its amendments, by requiring supervision and evaluation of employer compensation structures.
Additionally, the EEOC can use the information to better investigate employers who are unlawfully discriminating by paying employees lower wages based on their gender, race, or ethnicity.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.