April 14, 2015 marked the annual commemoration of Equal Pay Day. This event, begun in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity, fluctuates every year. However, it is always celebrated on a Tuesday to represent how far into the week women must work to earn what men earned the prior week.
What Is the Wage Gap?
Although the Equal Pay Act has required employers to pay women and men equally for the same job since 1963, a wage gap still exists, and it’s barely shrinking, if at all. In 1963, women earned 59 percent of what employers paid men. More than 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, full-time female employees earn only 78% of what men were paid: one year out of college, women earn only 82 percent of their male counterparts’ wages, the gap becomes even starker as they age, with the gap expanding after age 35.
The pay gap exists in nearly every occupation, regardless of whether it is dominated by males or females or balanced gender-wise. And this is true despite the fact that female college graduates enter the workplace with better skills and knowledge than their male peers.
And it’s worse for women of color, according to CNN: women who are black earn $.64 of every $1.00 that males earn; Latinas earn just $.56. And women with children earn less than those who are childless.
For an illuminating look at the demoralizing effect of the pay gap on women, watch this Buzzfeed video.
What the Law Says
The law requires companies to pay women and men equally, so long as they are working in similar jobs that require the same level of skill, effort, and responsibility.
The Equal Pay Act goes beyond just wages. All forms of pay must be equal, including any bonuses, overtime, stock options, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, allowances, expense reimbursements, and other benefits.
Although you can also sue for unequal pay under Title VII, filing under the Equal Pay Act does have some advantages. One of the primary ones is that you can file a lawsuit without having to file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission first. Or, if you work for a small company with fewer than 15 employees, and Title VII does not apply to you, you may still be able to file under the Equal Pay Act.
Visit our website to learn more about your rights under the Equal Pay Act.
Summing It Up
If you think you’ve been discriminated against with regard to your pay, you should take several steps to prepare your claim.
- Keep copies of all of your pay and performance records.
- Get a copy of any employer policies governing pay.
- Speak with experienced counsel about whether you have a claim under the law.
- The statute of limitations for filing a claim under the Equal Pay Act is two years; it extends to three years if your company intentionally paid you less.