Congress created the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to correct the conditions caused by sex-based pay inequities that significantly affected women’s earning potential. And although the Equal Pay Act (EPA) has helped narrow the pay gap between men and women to a great extent, women still earn approximately 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn. These numbers are even lower for minority women.
In this brief article, we’ll review what’s covered under EPA, how employers can violate this act, and how you can file a claim if you have been discriminated against at work regarding your pay on the basis of sex. For more information, you’ll want to get in touch with a wage dispute lawyer in Tampa.
What Is the Equal Pay Act?
In short, the Equal Pay Act is a federal employment law that prohibits sex-based discrimination and mandates that men and women doing substantially equal jobs in the same workplace receive equal pay. All forms of compensation are covered by this law, including salary, vacation, bonus, overtime pay, stock options, life insurance, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, profit sharing, and a host of other benefits, just to name a few. The jobs need not be identical; however, they must be substantially equal, based on job content rather than job title. Employees who perform substantially similar job functions may still be paid different rates based on seniority, merit, educational background, and other systems not related to sex.
In the evaluation of equal work, the following factors are taken into consideration under the EPA:
- Skill: Comparable experience, training, ability, and education may be considered, as required for the particular job.
- Effort: The level of physical and mental exertion required for the job will be taken into consideration.
- Responsibility: The amount of obligation and accountability required for the job is always a key factor.
- Working Conditions: Comparable work environment and hazards presented by the job are also taken into account.
In order for two jobs to be considered “substantially equal,” they should require fundamentally equal levels of skill, effort, and responsibility, and should be performed under similar working conditions.
Is Your Employer Violating the EPA?
If your employer is not providing equal pay for substantially equal work, then they may be in violation of the EPA, and may be sued for discrimination. Below, we’ve outlined some common examples of EPA violations:
- Treating one group of employees different than another in terms of pay based only on gender
- Refusing to pay or issue pension benefits due to the employee’s gender
- Paying an employee less than another employee who performs the same work based on that person’s gender
- Denying an employee insurance or other benefits based on their gender
- Refusing to award vacation time due to the employee’s gender
- Various other discrepancies in pay or benefits based on the employee’s gender or gender identification
Filing a Claim Under the Equal Pay Act
An employee asserting an EPA claim has the burden of establishing a prima facie case of a violation of the Equal Pay Act. To do this, the employee must demonstrate the following conditions:
- The employer pays different wages to employees of different sex at the same establishment
- The employees in question perform substantially equal work, as determined by skill, effort, and responsibility
- The type of work was performed under comparable working conditions
- The pay difference is based solely on gender
An “establishment,” in the context of an EPA claim, may be defined as a physical place of business rather than a business enterprise. Only in rare occasions may two or more distinct physical portions of an enterprise may be treated as a single establishment. Such treatment is typically only found appropriate where a central administrative unit hires employees, sets wages, and assigns the location of employment. Job titles or classifications alone are also not determinative in establishing whether the work performed by both employees is substantially equal.
As the plaintiff, you can meet the burden of establishing a prima facie case by either pointing to a single comparator of a different gender who performs substantially equal work under substantially equal conditions or by pointing to a predecessor or successor of a different gender who is paid more.
The Burden of Proof
As previously stated, once you have made a claim against your employer, you will then have the burden of proof to show all of the above factors apply. Only once the claim has been established does the burden of proof shift to the employer to provide a solid defense against the claim. Thus, when filing a claim, it’s crucial that you have a solid foundation of evidence and proof to begin with.
A great way to get started is by gathering any important information and/or documents that may prove useful for your claim. Below, we’ve listed just a few documents which may prove useful for your case:
- Any documents regarding pay or salary, such as hiring contracts, company employment policies, pay receipts, and wage stubs
- Any communications from your employer regarding pay, such as text messages, emails, or written documents
- Statements from any people who may be involved with your case, such as HR personnel or co-workers
- Any other critical information, such as deposit receipts or bank account information
Why You Need an Attorney By Your Side
If you have been discriminated against at work on the basis of your gender or believe your employer may be otherwise violating the Equal Pay Act, you should contact a Tampa wage and hour lawyer that specializes in employment law as soon as possible. Proving a violation of the Equal Pay Act can be incredibly difficult, but a lawyer skilled in wage and hour violations in Florida can conduct a thorough investigation, determine whether your employer has broken the law, and help you build your case. He or she can also counsel you on your best course of action and represent your interests in a court of law.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.