Equal Pay Bills

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 What Are Equal Pay Bills?

Equal pay bills aim to manage the problem of wage disparities between men and women. One bill that became law was the Equal Pay Act (EPA). Signed into law in 1963, the EPA made it unlawful for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who conduct substantially similar work.

At that time, women were only paid 59 cents for every dollar expended on men. Nevertheless, although the EPA has helped restrain the wage gap, considerable disparities still remain. Even today, women generally make only 80 cents for every dollar men make. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a pending bill that would modernize and bolster the EPA in essential ways.

What Are the Provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act?

The Paycheck Fairness Act will help to ensure that all people acquire equal pay for the same work, regardless of gender.

The following are among the major provisions of the Act.

Modification of the “Establishment” Requirement
Wage comparisons may be made between employees operating at the same “establishment.” An employer cannot pay a male worker more than a female worker for the same job merely because he is located across town. Comparisons can be made between employees in workplaces in the same county.

Closing Loopholes in the Employer Defense

Under the existing EPA, even if there is a pay discrepancy, employers accused of gender discrimination in wages can assert a defense. As long as employers can establish that the pay difference was based on elements other than sex, no violation of the EPA would be found. However, this defense was occasionally interpreted very broadly. The Paycheck Fairness Act would compress the EPA to seal this loophole.

Limitations on Wage History in the Hiring Process
The Paycheck Fairness Act would also restrict employers from counting on a prospective employee’s wage history. This would ensure that pay discrimination and disparities no longer follow people from job to job. Moreover, employers would be banned from screening applicants based on their wage history. An employer can only depend on wage history if the prospective worker willingly presents the wage history.

Protection from Retaliation for Discussing Pay
Employers are forbidden from retaliating against workers for discussing wages with coworkers. Likewise, employees cannot contract away or waive their rights to discuss and reveal pay.

Enhancing Equal Pay Act Remedies
When there are inadequate remedies for pay discrimination, employers can come out ahead by gambling that they will not get noticed. Nevertheless, the Paycheck Fairness Act will strengthen the provisions of the EPA that deal with remedies. The EPA currently provides for liquidated damages and back pay awards. These tend to be insubstantial. The Paycheck Fairness Act will permit plaintiffs who prevail to recover compensatory and punitive damages.

The Facilitation of Class Action
Under the Paycheck Fairness Act, women can come together and contest company-wide pay discrimination in court through a class-action lawsuit that fits with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Class actions ensure that relief will be provided to all those injured by the illegal procedure.

It is rather challenging to bring EPA suits as class actions because the EPA was adopted before the current federal class action rule, and it requires plaintiffs to opt-in to a suit. However, under the Paycheck Fairness Act, class members would be automatically deemed part of the class unless they choose to opt out of the class.

What Is the Equal Pay Act?

The Equal Pay Act mandates that employees receive equal pay for equal work in the same organization. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content, not job titles, decides whether jobs are substantially equal. Each of these factors is summarized below:

Skill
Including knowledge, proficiency, schooling, and training needed to perform the job. What talents are needed for the job, not the individual workers’ skills? For instance, two bookkeeping positions could be deemed equivalent under the EPA even if one of the job holders has a master’s degree in physics since that degree would not be needed for the position.

Exertion
The amount of physical or mental effort required to fulfill the job. For instance, assume that men and women work side by side constructing engine components. The individual at the end of the line must also lift the completed product as they complete the work and place it on a board. That position requires more effort than the other assembly line jobs if the extra step of lifting the assembled product off the line is substantial and is a regular part of the job. As a result, it would not be a violation to pay that individual more, regardless of whether a man or a woman holds the position.

Accountability
The degree of responsibility needed in performing the job. A minor discrepancy in responsibility, such as the appointment of the task of locking up at the end of the day, would not justify a pay differential.

Working Conditions
Two elements: (1) physical surroundings like temperature, fumes, and ventilation, and (2) risks. For instance, assume a male nurse’s assistant who operates in a clinic is paid less than a female nurse’s aide who works in patients’ houses. This distinction typically does not qualify as a distinction in working conditions that would justify a pay differential because the physical surroundings and dangers in the two locations usually are comparable.

Location
This applies only to jobs without any establishment, i.e., a distinguishable physical place of business. In some cases, physically separate places of business should be treated as one location. For instance, if a central administrative unit employs workers, arranges their payment, and transfers them to work areas, the individual work sites can be regarded as part of one establishment.

What Is Title VII, ADEA, and ADA?

Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA restrict wage discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability. Unlike the EPA, there is no necessity that the claimant’s job is substantially equal to that of a higher compensated individual outside the claimant’s protected class, nor do these laws demand the claimant to work in the same location as a comparator.

The fundamental views of disparate treatment and negative influence typically apply to compensation discrimination claims under these laws.

What Are Affirmative Defenses to Pay Differential Claims?

Pay differentials are allowed when they are founded on seniority, excellence, amount or quality of production, or a characteristic other than sex. These are known as “affirmative defenses,” It is the employer’s burden to demonstrate that they apply.

Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Think I’m Experiencing Pay Discrimination Based on My Gender?

Challenging the pay disparity at work can be a traumatic and difficult experience. If you think that you are experiencing pay discrimination at your workplace and want to rectify it, you may want some advice on how to go about it.

An experienced discrimination lawyer can talk to you about your options before proceeding with any action. Use LegalMatch to find the right discrimination lawyer for your case.

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