Equal Pay Day - which marks how many days into the new calendar year women must work until they earn what men earned during the previous year -- calls attention to the gap between men's and women's wages and to the persistence of pay discrimination based on sex. This year that date is April 14, 2015.
Pay discrimination is a broad term. It not only includes discrimination in the regular rate of pay but also in overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit-sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and other benefits.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces two federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination based on sex:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits discrimination in pay and all other aspects of employment based on sex (as well as, race, color, national origin, religion, or retaliation). Title VII became law after the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Under Title VII, the question is whether you were paid less because of your sex. Occasionally, a worker may learn that the employer has a policy of pay discrimination or that an employer made direct statements about it, but usually evidence of pay discrimination is more subtle. If an employer pays women less than men in the same situation, and its explanation (if any) does not adequately explain the difference, then there is indirect proof of pay discrimination under Title VII.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) is more technical than Title VII, and it includes several requirements for challenging pay discrimination based on sex. You must show that the employer paid unequal wages to men and women who work in jobs that have the same common core of tasks, require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions. Also, the jobs generally must be performed at the same physical place of business or "establishment." For more detail about each of these factors, see EEOC: Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/brochure-equal_pay_and_ledbetter_act.cfm; and EEOC: What You Should Know: Questions and Answers About the Equal Pay Act, http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/qanda_epa.cfm.
The EPA also specifies the ways employers can justify such a difference in pay: seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or another factor other than sex.
No, but they overlap for many employers. Title VII only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, but the EPA also generally applies to employers with fewer than 15 employees. For example, if an employer with 10 employees pays a woman less than a man to do the same functions, the woman would use the EPA rather than Title VII to challenge the practice.
Title VII and the EPA both apply to the federal government and prohibit it from discriminating in pay based on sex.
If you work for a private company or a state or local government agency with 15 or more employees, the first step is to file a "charge of discrimination" (charge) with the EEOC or your state or local fair employment agency. If you work for the federal government, the first step is to contact an EEO counselor at your agency.
Yes. You must file a Title VII charge within 180 days of when you received the discriminatory pay. (This 180-day deadline may be extended to 300 days if your charge also is covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law.)
No. Under the EPA, you generally have two years from the date of payment to go to the EEOC or directly to court. The only exception is if you can show that the employer intentionally disregarded the legal requirements of the EPA; then, you have three years from the discriminatory payment.
Yes, the laws enforced by the EEOC bar pay discrimination on other bases:
Each of these laws (and the EPA) bars employers from retaliating or engaging in reprisal against employees who oppose pay discrimination or file a charge, testify, or participate in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA, or GINA.
Pay discrimination under Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA, or GINA can occur in a variety of forms. For example:
Documents on EEOC's website that provide detailed information about pay discrimination include:
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Web site: www.eeoc.gov
U.S. Department of Labor
Web site: www.dol.gov
National Labor Relations Board
Web site: www.nlrb.gov
For general information on the federal sector EEO process, see the EEOC's website, http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/fed_employees/complaint_overview.cfm.