It may be hard to believe, but in 2022, women in the United States made only 78 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. That actually is a drop from 80 cents, which was the average for a number of preceding years. This gender pay gap is even worse when comparing Black and Hispanic female workers to their white male colleagues (69.5 cents and 64.1 cents, respectively).
These stark discrepancies produce staggering financial inequalities over time. Moreover, these differences in pay persist at all levels of education and economic background. That is, women are earning less than men in every sector of the job market, from hourly fast-food workers to high-powered financial analysts.
Female employees have the law on their side. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) is designed to address pay disparities between men and women who performed similar work. The EPA requires “equal pay for equal work.” The EPA covers all elements of an employee’s compensation, including base salary, overtime, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, and benefits.
The first step to bringing EPA claims is demonstrating the discrepancy between the pay for women and men performing the same work. Fortunately, many state laws and local ordinances require pay transparency. As of early 2023, these states have enacted legislation addressing salary range disclosures: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. In addition, some Ohio, New York, and New Jersey localities have also enacted similar legislation. While these laws may vary in their details, they generally all require employers to disclose wage rates and salary ranges upon request by a job candidate or employee. If you are not in an area that requires pay transparency and believe that you are earning less than your male co-workers performing the same work, then you might simply ask the male colleagues who you trust to share this information with you. And, if you cannot confirm but have a well-founded belief that your pay is unequal, an attorney can help investigate potential EPA claims.
Once the discrepancy in pay can be established, much of EPA litigation focuses on the equal work element: how does an employee establish that she performed the same job as a man? Under the EPA, “equal work” means jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions (and in the same type of work location). The jobs do not have to be identical, but they must be substantially equal. It is the content and duties of the job, not the job title or the employer’s job description, that controls.
An employee who succeeds on an EPA claim is entitled to her lost wages (meaning the difference between her pay and that of her male co-workers) for the two- or three-year statute of limitations period. If her employer cannot establish that it acted in good faith (meaning that it had reasonable grounds for believing that it was not violating the law), she will receive liquidated (i.e., double) damages in an amount equal to the lost wages. The EPA also requires the employer to pay the successful employee’s attorney’s fees, which drives many of these cases. Importantly, the EPA allows female workers to bring a suit collectively in a class action.
At Shavitz Law Group, we stand up for the rights of our clients by ensuring that their voices are heard. If you believe you may be a victim of pay discrimination, call us today at (800) 616-4000.