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4 Things You Need to Know About the Equal Pay Act


You may be surprised to learn that, as recent as 2014, women working full time in the United States were typically paid only 79% of what men were paid. That is a significant gap of 21%. According to data from the American Community Survey, the largest pay gap was reported in Louisiana and the smallest in Washington, D.C. In Louisiana, women were paid only 65% of what men were paid but in D.C., women were paid 90%. The Equal Pay Act was passed long ago for the purpose of correcting this disparity. Here are 4 things you should know about the Equal Pay Act.

1. What is the Equal Pay Act?

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) is a federal law that requires employers to pay men and women the same for performing the same work. Put simply, the law requires equal pay for equal work. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards. Though the Act was intended to protect both women and men from discriminatory pay, the primary purpose was to help remedy the wage disparity experienced overwhelmingly by women. Indeed, this particular anti-discrimination law has almost always been used in situations where women are paid less than men for doing the same job.

2. 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 need to show that you and an employee of the opposite sex:

  • work in the same place
  • perform equal work, but
  • do not receive the same pay

Note that your claim may be defeated if your employer has evidence that the wage disparity is legitimate, for example, because the higher-paid employee has more seniority or more experience than you do.

3. How does the Act define "equal work?"

The good news is, it is not necessary for the job you do to be identical to the job of your comparator. Put another way, the job description or job title does not matter if you are both performing the same work. What matters is the job duties that are actually being performed. Most courts have ruled that two jobs are equal for the purposes of the Equal Pay Act when both "require equal levels of skill, effort, and responsibility and are performed under similar conditions."

4. What does "equal pay" actual mean?

First, the act does not dictate that every employee receives the same total amount of compensation. In other words, if one employee receives more total compensation because of higher productivity, that would 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.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment attorneys at Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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