Employees have the right not to face discrimination in their compensation based on their race/color, religion, gender/sex, national origin, age, and other protected class status. These rights are protected under several federal laws, including: the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“EPA”), Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).
You may have an equal pay claim if you have found yourself doing internet searches for:
- I am being paid less because I’m a woman.
- I am making less money than men doing the same job.
- My job gives men higher salaries than women in the same position.
- I am being paid less because I’m Black.
- I earn less than White workers because I’m African American.
- I’ve been with the company 25 years, but they are paying new hires more.
- My boss pays younger workers with less experience more than me.
- I get paid less because I’m Hispanic.
- I want to sue for employment discrimination.
- I have a lower base pay because I am Arab.
- Why am I being paid less than others for doing the same job?
- How do I get equal pay for equal work?
- My boss discriminates against me by paying me less?
- As a woman, am I entitled to equal pay for doing the same job as a man?
Depending on the reason that you are being paid less than someone outside your protected class will determine which law may apply to your claims. Consider the following employment pay laws:
The Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act provides that men and women employees must be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. While the jobs performed by the male and female employees do not need to be identical, those jobs must be substantially equal. The EPA also focuses on the job’s content and the function of the employee to determine whether jobs are substantially equal. As such, employers cannot avoid their obligations under the Equal Pay Act by assigning different titles for the same jobs. Specifically, the Equal Pay Act provides: “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions…”
Each of these factors has been analyzed by both federal and Ohio courts. Let’s consider each individually:
Skill: Skill is measured by factors such as the experience, ability, education, and training required in performing the job. The focus is on the skills that are required to perform the job, and not skills that an individual employee may have that are unrelated to the job. For example, two accounting positions would be considered equal under the Equal Pay Act even if one of the accountants had obtained a master’s degree in history, since that master’s degree is not required for the position.
Effort: Effort is defined as the level of physical and mental exertion required needed to perform job amount of physical or mental exertion to perform the job. To be significant under the analysis, extra effort must be substantial and a regular part of the job. For example, where the person at middle of an assembly line need only adjust a bolt, while the person at the end of an assembly line is also required to move the product after completing the assembly to a different platform as part of the job duties, the end of the line job requires more effort. Under this example, it would not be a violation of the EPA to pay that end of the line employee more.
Responsibility: Responsibility is defined for the purpose of the Equal Pay Act as the degree of accountability required in performing the job. For example, an employee who is given the extra duty of having the keys to open the shop every day has more responsibility than other store employees. However, a minor difference in responsibility, such as turning on or off the lights at the beginning or end of the day would not be a significance difference in responsibility justifying a pay differential under the Equal Pay Act.
Working Conditions: Under the Equal Pay Act, working conditions address two factors: (1) physical surroundings such as temperature, fumes, and ventilation; and (2) hazards.
Establishment: The Equal Pay Act applies only to jobs worked by employees in the same establishment, which is typically defined as physical location rather than an entire business or enterprise consisting of several locations for the business.
The EPA also provides exceptions “where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex.” These exceptions are affirmative defenses under the Equal Pay Act, which means that the employer has the burden under the law to prove that any one of these exceptions apply to the particular facts of the case.
Under the EPA, an employer cannot correct a pay differential by reducing the pay of higher paid employees. Instead, the employer must increase the pay of the lower paid employee to match that of the high paid employees.
Title VII, ADEA, and ADA
Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA prohibit compensation discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, age, and/or disability. There are two important distinctions between the requirements of the these statutes and those contained in the Equal Pay Act: (1) Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA do not require that the employee’s job be substantially equal to that of the higher paid employee, and (2) Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA do not require the employee to work in the same establishment as the higher paid employee. Instead, like other discrimination claims under these laws, the focus is on whether the employees are being treated differently, at least in part, because of their status in a protected class.
If you feel that you are being paid less based on your gender, sex, race, national origin, or age, then call the right attorney. It is never appropriate to discriminate by paying women, African Americans, or older workers less than their similarly situated counterparts. If you are facing unequal pay at work call now to schedule a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL initial consultation. Call our Cincinnati attorneys at (513) 818-3688. Call our Cleveland attorneys at (216) 291-4744. Call our Columbus attorneys at (614) 335-4685. Call our Toledo attorneys at (419) 960-5926.
Because many employees are not able to afford the costs of litigation up front, our lawyers take on more cases on a contingency fee basis than most law firms. Contingency fee agreements mean that you do not have to pay any fee for legal services unless and until our employment lawyers recover money and/or results on your claim.
Still have some questions about equal pay laws? Let’s see if we can answer a few below: