Fair compensation is arguably an essential facet of employment today. If wage discrimination in the workplace happens, the effects can negatively impact everyone.
Employment discrimination laws exist to ensure all workers are compensated fairly for their work. Additionally, these legal mandates protect employees from wage discrimination due to bias against certain groups.
Wage discrimination refers to several offenses based on income discrepancies. It can refer to the differences between traditionally discriminated groups, such as women and minorities, or it can refer to any group protected under federal or state employment discrimination laws.
This article further discusses wage discrimination, how it affects wages, and how to prove it’s occurring.
Title VII and Wage Discrimination
To define wage discrimination, one must look at the law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prevents employers from discriminating against employees based on race, nationality, age, sex, religion, or disability. It ensures equal employee treatment in the company’s hiring, firing, pay, or benefits process.
The law protects workers from discrimination during all employment processes, including promotions and terminations. People in protected groups can hold their employers liable if they reduce wages as a form of discrimination.
The Equal Pay Act
The concept of why the wage gap exists today traces back to the Industrial Revolution when instances of pay discrimination in the workplace between male and female workers began to occur. However, the gap became more apparent after World War II when large groups of women joined the workforce.
On average, men still earn more than women in the American workforce, especially among minorities. The government, however, has continuously tried to improve over the last decade. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) states that both sexes must receive equal pay for equal work and can address salary discrepancies by going to court.
Understanding the Equal Pay Act
The EPA tackles the salary disparity between men and women in contrast to Title VII. While the EPA explicitly forbids compensation differences for men and women in similar jobs, Title VII recognizes it as sex discrimination.
Jobs don’t need to be the same for the EPA to cover them. Instead, the responsibilities must be equal. This means that when men and women deliver the same work to a corporation, their employer must compensate them equally, regardless of job titles or other factors. The compensation includes bonuses, stock options, and benefits.
How Can I Prove Wage Discrimination?
Wage discrimination is prohibited under the law. An employee can go to court to assert a claim under the EPA. Meanwhile, they can go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if they have a case under Title VII. They can also hold an employer liable under both mandates.
An employee filing a complaint under the EPA has to prove that their position and responsibilities are equal to those of an opposite-sex counterpart. They must prove the roles demand the same ability, effort, and commitment. They also need to prove that they produce the work under the same working conditions within the organization.
Cases of wage discrimination under Title VII don’t require proof of equal work. Instead, because the act forbids pay disparity, an employer is liable even if there’s no employee of a different sex holding a similar position.
To file a case under Title VII, an employee must prove they belong to a protected group and qualify for the job. They must show that wage discrimination occurred because of their membership in the said group.
According to the EEOC, its investigations gauge cases by examining the salaries of people in similar positions to the complainant. Once they find a person in similar circumstances, the investigator determines if the difference in pay is due to discrimination.
Other laws that cover wage discrimination are the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which applies to workers over 40, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to employees with legally recognized disabilities.
How to Take Legal Action Against Wage Discrimination?
1. Gather evidence
Before filing a charge, you first need to gather evidence. Get documents showing the wage comparison, job titles, and responsibilities if you can. Having these will help prove that wage discrimination is occurring within your organization.
2. File with the EEOC
You must file the case with the EEOC within 180 days of the incident or 300 days if the state or area enforces a law with the same grounds. Remember, the EEOC will notify your employer if you file a case.
You can submit the charge using the EEOC Public Portal or at the nearest office. A staff member will interview you to assess your situation and see if filing the case is the best path.
3. File with a state or local agency
Some states or cities have laws against discrimination, with Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPAs) enforcing them. If federal law applies to your case, the FEPA will file it with the EEOC. This means both types of statutes protect your rights.
4. File by mail
The EEOC can also process charges sent by mail. However, you must provide them with details about you, your employer, and the discriminatory incident. They also require your signature in the letter; without it, they can’t launch an investigation.
What Happens in a Wage Discrimination Case?
If an employee presents proof of salary discrimination, they have a case. The employer then must provide evidence that the inequality in salary isn’t the result of discrimination but other factors. They can do this by presenting affirmative defenses.
Affirmative defenses for salary disparities may include claims that employers base the discrepancy on a seniority or merit system or the amount or quality of production. The Bennet Amendment to Section VII states that similar affirmative defenses to Title VII claims also apply to those under the EPA.
Using the EPA or Other Federal Laws to Fight Wage Discrimination
Through a competent and experienced employment law attorney, employees can hold employers liable for wage discrimination in the workforce under the EPA and other federal laws. They don’t need to suffer from pay discrepancies due to their sex, religion, race, and other protected characteristics.
If you believe you’re experiencing wage discrimination due to your sex or because you’re part of a protected group, contact Shegerian & Associates. We’re ready to help you with your case.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Wage Discrimination
1. Why does the wage gap exist?
The wage gap exists due to employers discriminating against their employees. Some wage discrimination examples include female workers receiving lower pay than male workers or Caucasian employees receiving a higher salary than Hispanic or Asian employees.
2. Why is wage discrimination considered unethical?
The unethicality of wage discrimination stems from embedded stereotypes and biases that prevent others from progressing. These unethical practices alienate groups of people from opportunities for success.
3. Why is the wage gap a problem?
Lower pay means certain groups of people receive less pension or Social Security benefits, which can severely impact their daily lives and retirement. This means they may be unable to afford healthcare or necessities, especially if they support a family.