The issue of unequal pay of female employees compared to male employees is a major ongoing battle in America. Although gender discrimination laws are in place that protect against unequal pay, the truth of the matter is that the majority of women are still underpaid compared to men in similar positions.
The Equal Pay Act: Equal Pay for Equal Work
The Equal Pay Act was enacted just after World War II in 1963, to protect the large wave of women entering the workforce at that time and were given mostly secretarial and support positions. The EPA required that women be paid equal pay for equal work, so that women had to be paid the same amount for the same or similar positions. Even if the position was not identical, if it had similar responsibilities and features as another male position, a woman had to be paid the same. Most importantly, employers are not allowed to discriminate against women by paying them less in salary or wages than men.
The EPA and the National Wage Gap
Even after 30 years of the EPA being in place, and despite some improvement, there is still a huge wage gap between men and women that persists. Female pay is on average 78 cents on the dollar less than men, when women make up about 49 percent of the workforce, creating a 22 percent wage gap.
Researchers even predict that it will take 50 more years to close the significant wage gap. In addition, women are considered minorities when it comes to senior level positions at Fortune 500 companies across the nation. In most corporations and companies, men dominate executive positions and leadership roles.
The Mechanics of the Current Wage Gap
There have been a number of factors that have been cited by researchers that contribute to ongoing wage disparity between male and female workers today.
One of the main factors that have been cited is unconscious bias. Many of today’s corporations and companies have an underlying gender bias and “boy’s club” mentality that facilitates it operating in a way that caters to male employees in terms of rank, compensation as well as in other areas of employment such a hiring in general. Employers who fail to train their managers and supervisors about gender discrimination laws unnecessarily promote the continuance of unequal pay and differential treatment of women in the workplace.
Unconscious bias is also present when female employees become pregnant, take maternity leave, need breastfeeding accommodations and/or need child care and caregiving. Employers tend to assume that women in these situations could mean costing them more money in terms of insurance coverage, leave or other benefits. In other words, employers tend to see women in these positions as a ‘burden’ on the company.
Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination
These types of unconscious and conscious biases that employers may harbor against women are all forms of gender discrimination that are prohibited by federal law and in most cases state law as well. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and California law prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, including in the form of compensation disparity. When a woman experiences any of the type of biases described above, an employer could be held liable in a court of law.
Ways to Ensure Equal Pay for Female Employees
Female employees must be aware of their right to equal pay for equal work as well as the right to work free of sex discrimination and harassment in hiring, promotions and compensation.
If you are unsure or think your right to equal pay has been violated in any way, you should contact a competent employment rights attorney. An attorney can conduct an investigation to uncover the specifics of your complaint and can determine whether to file charges with the EEOC.
Additionally, if you think you are a victim of unequal pay, consider filing a complaint with your HR department or following company guidelines regarding addressing this issue. Having a well-documented file can be beneficial for your case in the event that HR does nothing to address your complaints and you wish to take legal action.
If you wish to pursue litigation against your employer for EPA violations of federal law for unequal pay, you can start with an EEOC charge, or you may go directly to court. It is also important to note that an employee may allege both an EPA violation and a Title VII violation when she feels a wage or pay discrepancy exists based on her status as a female. However, for a Title VII violation, the initial charge must be filed with the EEOC first before proceeding to court.
Ensuring Equal Pay: It’s Up To You
If your employer is not complying with these employment and labor laws and has unequal pay practices, seek legal representation as soon as possible. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice. Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.