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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Youth at Work

Select any of the questions below to get quick answers to some common questions about pay discrimination.

  1. What types of pay are covered by the laws enforced by EEOC?
  2. What are some examples of pay discrimination?
  3. What are some valid reasons for differences in pay?
  4. Can my employer ask me about my salary in previous jobs?
  5. Are men protected from pay discrimination?
  6. Can my employer lower my pay or pay me less than other employees doing the same job because I need a workplace change because of my disability?
  7. Can my employer lower my pay because I filed a discrimination complaint?
  8. Can my employer pay me differently because I am not a U.S. citizen?
  9. Can my employer lower my pay to fix a pay difference between male and female employees?
  10. Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is pay discrimination?
  11. Do I have other rights related to pay?

1-What types of pay are covered by the laws enforced by EEOC?

All forms of pay and benefits are covered, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowance, hotel accommodations, and reimbursement for travel expenses.


2-What are some examples of pay discrimination?

Pay discrimination occurs when an employee is paid differently from others because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information. 

For example, pay discrimination may be occurring if male employees are offered higher starting salaries than female employees in the same job who have similar skills and qualifications, or if Hispanic employees are paid less than White employees even though their performance evaluations are similar, or if employees without disabilities are given raises for adequate performance but employees with disabilities are given raises only for superior performance.


3-What are some valid reasons for differences in pay?

Not every instance in which employees are paid differently is discrimination. For example, employers may pay employees differently because they have more education, more experience, or more training. So, for example, an employer may pay a male employee more than a female employee because the male employee has an advanced degree or has more years of experience than the female employee.  This probably would not be unlawful, as long as the pay difference reasonably reflects the differences between the employees. For example, if the male employee only had one more year of experience than the female employee, that additional year of experience probably would not justify paying the male employee twice as much as the female employee. 

Employers may also pay employees differently because of the type of work they do. For example, it may not be unlawful for employers to pay employees who work the night shift differently than employees who work the day shift if all employees have equal opportunity to work either shift, the pay difference is not because of gender or any other protected characteristic, and the pay difference has a business purpose (for example, it is harder to find employees willing to work the night shift, so the employer pays night shift workers more than day shift workers to attract applicants).

Pay differences may also be permitted for other reasons, including seniority (the fact that a person has a higher position within the organization or has been with the organization longer), merit (employee performance), or revenue (the amount of money the employee earns for the company).


4-Can my employer ask me about my salary in previous jobs?

It is not illegal under the laws enforced by EEOC for an employer to ask applicants how much they were paid in previous jobs.


5-Are men protected from pay discrimination?

Yes. Both men and women are protected from pay discrimination based on gender or any other protected characteristic.


6-Can my employer lower my pay or pay me less than other employees doing the same job because I need a workplace change because of my disability?

No. Your employer cannot make up the cost of providing a workplace change by lowering your pay or paying you less than other employees in similar positions.


7-Can my employer lower my pay because I filed a discrimination complaint?

No. It is unlawful for your employer to lower your pay or otherwise punish you because you filed a discrimination complaint. It is also unlawful for your employer to lower your pay or otherwise punish you because you participated in a discrimination proceeding (such as an investigation or lawsuit). We call this your right to be protected from retaliation


8-Can my employer pay me differently because I am not a U.S. citizen?

No. The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit pay discrimination, regardless of citizenship or work authorization status.


9-Can my employer lower my pay to fix a pay difference between male and female employees?

No. If male and female employees are paid differently, an employer may not make the salaries equal by lowering the wages of employees who are being paid more.


10-Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is pay discrimination?

No. It is illegal for your employer to punish you, treat you differently, or harass you because you report discrimination to someone at your company, to EEOC, or to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. This is true even if it turns out that the conduct you complained about is not found to be discrimination. We refer to this as your right to be protected from retaliation.


11-Do I have other rights related to pay?

Yes. Additional information related to young workers and pay is available on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.