Filing a Claim for Violation of the Equal Pay Act

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 What is the Equal Pay Act?

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) protects workers and employees from gender discrimination. It also provides that employees shall be given equal pay for equal work. In the evaluation of equal work, the following factors are taken into consideration under the EPA:

  • Skill: Comparable experience, training, education, and ability will be considered, as required for a particular job.
  • Effort: The level of physical and mental exertion required for the job will be evaluated.
  • Responsibility: The amount of obligation and accountability required for the job will also be a factor.
  • Working conditions: Comparable environment and hazards presented by the job are taken into account. 

Thus, since each job description is different, the determination of “equal work” will involve many different factors. Courts will seek to determine how equal pay should be applied using these factors and others when possible.

What are Some Violations of the Equal Pay Act?

If an employer does not provide equal pay for equal work, then they may be in violation of the Equal Pay Act, and may be sued for discrimination.

Some examples of EPA violations may include:

  • Paying an employee less than another employee who performs the same work, based on that person’s gender.
  • Treating one group of employees differently than another group in terms of pay, based only on gender (for instance, treating one group better than the other). 
  • Denying an employee insurance or other benefits based on gender.
  • Refusing to pay or issue pension benefits due to the employee’s gender.
  • Various other discrepancies in pay or company benefits based on the employee’s gender or gender identification.

Does the Equal Pay Act Only Protect Women?

The Equal Pay Act was initially created to protect women. It was created mainly to address the unfair pay gap usually directed at women. However, the courts have since ruled that the Act applies to both genders, and “reverse discrimination” against men is also a violation.

Thus, if an employer discriminates against a man with regard to pay based solely on their gender, then it may be a violation of Equal Pay Act provisions. This can apply in situations where women “traditionally” are employees, like in nursing. 

What is Included in the Equal Pay Act?

The Equal Pay Act directly addresses issues regarding pay rates and salaries. However, the Equal Pay Act also requires the following to be equal for equal work amongst employees:

  • Employee pensions;
  • Insurance coverage;
  • Profit sharing;
  • Vacation time;
  • Bonuses; and
  • Use of company equipment.

How Can I File a Claim for Violation of the Equal Pay Act

To be successful in a claim for violation of the Equal Pay Act, it is necessary to first establish an employer/employee relationship, and prove the following:

  • The pay difference is based on gender;
  • The type of work was performed under comparable working conditions;
  • There was equal work involved, as determined by equal skill, effort, and responsibility; and
  • The employee received less compensation than another opposite sex employee who performed the same work.

All of the above must be present in order to have a successful claim for a violation of the Equal Pay Act. The best chance you have of furthering your claim is to make sure you have all of the relevant documents/evidence that is ready to support your claim. 

Who Has the Burden of Proof When You File a Claim Under the Equal Pay Act?

Once an employee makes a claim against an employer, they will then have the burden of proof to show all the above factors apply. If a claim is established, then the burden of proof is shifted to the employer to provide a solid defense against the claim.

Thus, when filing a claim, it’s important for the employee to have a solid foundation of evidence and proof to begin with. If you are the person filing the claim, you should start gathering important information and documents that might be useful for your claim. These include:

  • Any documents regarding pay or salary, such as pay receipts or wage stubs, hiring contracts, and company employment policies;
  • Any communications from your employer regarding pay, such as emails, written or printed documents, or text messages;
  • Statements from persons who may be involved, such as human resources personnel, co-workers, or supervisors; and/or
  • Any other information that might be useful for your claim, such as bank account information and deposit receipts.

Is there a Statute of Limitations for Equal Pay Act Claims?

As with most lawsuits, a statute of limitations (filing deadline) also applies to filing a violation of the Equal Pay Act. Typically, an EPA 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 equal pay violation.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Equal Pay Act Claim?

If you have been discriminated against at work regarding your pay based on gender, you should contact an employment lawyer immediately. Proving a violation of the Equal Pay Act can be difficult, but an discrimination lawyers can help build your case and provide legal advice. They can also counsel you on your best course of action, and represent your best interests in a court of law.

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