Today, April 8, is Equal Pay Day, which (according to the Huffington Post) marks “the number of extra days into 2014 the average woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart did in 2013.” President Obama also signed executive orders today addressing gender-based wage discrimination.
The primary federal legislation addressing gender pay discrimination is the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which is codified as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, namely, at Section 206(d) of Title 29 of the U.S. Code.
Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act “[t]o prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.” The statute provides, in relevant part:
(1) 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, except 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:
Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee.
(Bold emphasis and paragraphing added.)
Notably, the Equal Pay Act does not prohibit wage differentials between men and women per se. As such, in every case where gender-based wage discrimination is alleged, all relevant facts must be thoroughly analyzed to determine whether there has been a statutory violation.
Furthermore, an employee who has a claim under the Equal Pay Act may also have a claim for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer “to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s … sex.” While they may both be applicable, these statutes differ slightly in terms of coverage and enforcement.
New York State law, namely New York Labor Law § 194, provides protections similar to those provided by the Equal Pay Act.
The FLSA, Title VII, and the New York Labor Law also contain anti-retaliation provisions, which generally make it an unlawful employment practice to punish employees for exercising protected rights.
If you believe you have been subjected to gender-based wage discrimination, please contact us today to discuss your legal rights.