Employment laws related to men and women have come a long way over the past several decades. However, situations can still arise involving unequal pay between male and female employees. This can potentially trigger a claim under the Equal Pay Act.
Understanding the Equal Pay Act
In its simplest terms, the Equal Pay Act requires men and women in the same workplace performing the same job be paid the same amount of money. It is important for workers to have a solid understanding about the Equal Pay Act and its terms.
The Equal Pay Act generally covers all types of pay and employers. The law is not limited to differences in an employee’s hourly wage or yearly salary. Rather, it covers differences in overtime pay or bonuses, as well as annual, personal, sick or holiday pay. An employee may even have a claim under the law if there is a difference in allowances for things such as gas or travel.
It is important to distinguish between job titles and job duties. Two employees with the same job title may perform very different tasks or functions, so it may be legal to pay one of the employees more if they are doing extra work or taking on additional responsibilities.
However, employees may be performing the exact same job duties, but happen to have slightly different job titles. The difference in job title is not a legally valid reason to pay an employee more money if an employee with a different job title is doing the exact same thing and getting paid less.
If an employer acknowledges a wage inequality, lowering an employee’s wages to match another employee’s wages is not an acceptable solution. Rather, the lower paid employee’s wages should be increased.
What can I do?
Employees who believe they may have a claim under the Equal Pay Act can file a claim directly with the appropriate court. The statute of limitations to file a claim is two years after the unlawful practice occurs, or three years if the unlawful action was willful.
Determining if you have a claim under the Equal Pay Act can be complex. It can be helpful to speak with a legal professional to decide the best options for your situation.