With the history-making nomination of Hillary Clinton as the first female presidential nominee, we are necessarily reminded of the long-standing disparities in pay that women in the United States suffer. Despite the progress that has been made, there is still a substantial gender pay gap in our country, where female workers continue to earn less than 80% of pay male workers receive.
Historical exclusion of women in the workforce continues to take its toll
Understandably, the gender pay gap continues to be even more substantial in industries that have historically excluded women, which can include anything from jobs involving heavy labor to high-tier executive positions. Even in areas of the country where the pay gap is not as large it is not because women are being paid the same, but instead men are either paid less (but still more than women) so the gap is smaller, or women are less represented in traditionally low-paying industries. For example, in most of the metro areas with the largest gender pay gaps, women hold less than one-third of the management positions, less than one-fifth of computer and mathematics jobs, and less than one in ten architecture and engineering jobs.
Amount of education does not make a difference
Generally speaking, a common indicator of potential earnings is education. In other words, reaching a higher education level often leads to a higher income. Yet, education does not appear to make a significant difference in the gender pay gap. Indeed, women are more likely to have graduated from both high school and college, and still they remain under-represented in the higher-paying industries for which a college education typically opens the door.
What does the Equal Pay Act require?
Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), employers are prohibited from paying different wages based on gender (sex). It requires that both men and women be paid the same amount for the same work on jobs that required “substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, which are performed under similar working conditions in the same establishment.” This means their jobs do not have to be identical in every way. In determining whether the jobs are substantially equal, it is the job duties and responsibilities that matter not the job title.
Who is covered by the Equal Pay Act?
Nearly all employees are covered by the Equal Pay Act, which regulates the wage and salary policies of state, local, and federal governments and the majority of private employers. In order to make a claim under the Equal Pay Act, you must be able to establish that you and an employee of the opposite sex work in the same place, perform equal work, but do not receive the same pay. Your claim could still be defeated by your employer if there is evidence that the wage disparity is legitimate. For instance, because the higher-paid employee has more seniority or more experience than you do.
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.