Labor and Employment

Equal Pay Laws

Congress passed The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), to ensure men and women received equal pay for equal work. Congress found wide wage differences based on sex of workers. Effects of unequal pay practices went beyond the impact on women's paychecks. Negative effects were seen on the overall labor force and commerce. Learn how the EPA protects your rights to equal pay, and how you can enforce those rights.

EPA Requirements

The EPA generally requires employers to pay men and women equal pay for equal work. Jobs held by male and female workers at the same workplace don't have to be identical, rather they must be substantially the same. Job titles aren't the determining factor on the issue of whether jobs are same. The substance or content of a job is what counts including the position's skill, effort and responsibility, and the conditions under which the employees work.

All forms of compensation are covered by the EPA. An employee seeking EPA relief can look to differences in hourly wages, salaries, the value of benefits, vacation and holiday pay, bonus programs, travel expense payments and other pay forms.

What is a common setting for an EPA claim? A manufacturing business, with workers on an assembly line, doing the same work is a good example.

Making an EPA Claim

If you think you have an EPA claim, where do you start? The EPA allows employees to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or go directly to court and file a lawsuit.

The statute of limitations, or time allowed for filing a lawsuit or EEOC complaint, is within two years of when the alleged EPA violation took place. A three-year limit applies for willful violations of the law. There's no extension of time to file a lawsuit if you file an EEOC complaint first.

Employer Response

Not all pay differences are barred by the EPA. Disparate pay can be based on:

  • Employee seniority
  • A compensation plan based on production quality or quantity
  • Merit
  • Any other factor besides sex

Your employer can't retaliate against you for filing an EPA claim or if you cooperate with an EPA investigation. If there is an improper pay difference, an employer can't lower wages to equal out employees' pay.

EPA Damages and Relief

If you win your case, the court may award you damages for back pay or wages, and an equal amount in liquidated damages, along with attorney's fees and costs. Equitable relief, such as ordering your employer to stop certain conduct, may be ordered if your case involved retaliation barred by the EPA.

It's common for lawyers to accept EPA cases on a contingency fee basis. Your lawyer takes a percentage of the amount you receive on your claim as the fee.

Related Laws

Other employment and discrimination laws may apply to your case. These include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Similar state laws can offer relief as well. Your lawyer can guide you on the best way to pursue your claim. It all depends on the facts of your case, and there are pros and cons under each law, such as differences in procedures or the damages you may receive.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can my employer base pay differences on the time of my shift? If more women work on a certain shift than men and are paid less, is that okay?
  • How would I prove a willful violation of the EPA?
  • If I have claims under more than one law, do I have to include all claims in one lawsuit?
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