The Equal Pay Act (EPA) protects workers from gender discrimination and provides that employees shall be given equal pay for equal work. In the evaluation of equal work, the following factors are taken into consideration:
- Skill: Comparable experience, training, education, and ability as required for a particular job.
- Effort: The level of physical and mental exertion required for the job.
- Responsibility: The amount of obligation and accountability required for the job.
- Working conditions: Comparable environment and hazards presented by the job.
Violation of the Equal Pay Act
If an employer does not provide equal pay for equal work, they are in violation of the Equal Pay Act, and may be sued for discrimination.
Does the Equal Pay Act Only Protect Women?
The Equal Pay Act was initially created to protect women and the unfair pay gap usually directed at women, but the courts have since ruled that the Act applies to both genders, and “reverse discrimination” against men is a violation.
What is Included in Equal Pay?
Additionally, the Equal Pay Act also requires the following to be equal for equal work:
- Employee pensions
- Insurance coverage
- Profit sharing
- Vacation time
- Use of company equipment
Proving a Claim for Violation of the Equal Pay Act
To be successful in a claim for violation of the Equal Pay Act, you must first establish an employer/employee relationship, and prove the following:
- Pay difference is based on gender;
- Work was performed under comparable working conditions;
- Equal work, as determined by equal skill, effort, and responsibility; and
- Employee received less compensation of another opposite sex employee who performed the same work
Shifting Burdens of Proof.
Once an employee makes a claim against an employer, he or she has the burden of proof to show all the above factors apply. If established, the burden of proof is shifted to the employer to provide a solid defense against the claim
Prima Facie and Willful Violations
If all of the factors are met, it is called prima facie, or the bare minimum of the violation and the employer may be held liable for compensatory damages. If the employee can also prove that the employer knew or should have known about the Equal Pay Act and its provisions, and recklessly disregarded them, the court may also award punitive damages.
Statute of Limitations
As with most lawsuits, a statute of limitations also applies to filing a violation of the Equal Pay Act. Typically, a claim must be filed in state or federal court within two years of when the violation occurred. This date is usually when the discriminatory pay action happened or when the employee discovered the violation.
Do I Need a Lawyer for an Equal Pay Act Claim?
If you have been discriminated against at work, you should contact an employment lawyer immediately. Proving a violation of the Equal Pay Act can be difficult, but an employment attorney can help build your case, counsel you on your best course of action, and represent your best interests in court.