More than 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act in order to guarantee equal pay for both men and women who perform the same job. This was the first of many laws passed to improve job opportunities. The next law passed, the following year in fact, was Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Despite these and other anti-discrimination laws passed over the years, there is still much that needs to be done.
The creation of the National Equal Pay Task Force
President Obama established the National Equal Pay Task Force in 2010 for the purpose of cracking down on violations of equal pay laws. The Task Force is made up of professionals from the Department of Justice, the EEOC, the Department of labor and the Office of Personnel Management. The Task Force has been successful in enforcing the equal pay laws and enhancing federal interagency collaboration on that front.
Pay discrimination goes beyond basic disparity in wages
It may not be obvious to some, but the disparity in wages has a greater effect than simple inequality. Women who are denied equal pay are also hindered in their ability to provide essentials for their families, such as food and housing. The reality is, in the United States, families rely more and more on the wages of female heads of household.
The need for knowledge and empowerment
One of the goals of the Equal Pay Task Force for the next 50 years is to develop strategies that increase the knowledge of employees. One of the biggest problems is that many women do not realize they are being discriminatorily underpaid. In order to combat the pay secrecy policies that perpetually keep women in the dark, collecting more comprehensive data on pay is important.
Closing the gaps in anti-discrimination laws
While there is no doubt that the existing civil rights laws, including the Equal Pay Act, go a long way towards establishing equality, those federal laws do not provide complete protection. There are still gaps in protection that need to be filled. The federal legislature has the opportunity to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would remedy these loopholes and strengthen the protections against pay discrimination. However, the proposed law has met with substantial opposition.
There are a few exceptions to the equal pay rule
There are a few circumstances where a difference in pay may be acceptable, such as when seniority is involved, or when pay is determined by job performance or merit. The catch is, sex must not be the deciding factor. In these situations, the employer is required to prove that the basis for the inequality in pay falls into one of those excepted factors.
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.