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Looking at federal, state equal pay protection laws, P.1

One of the big issues in the workplace today is pay equality between the sexes. Although there are equal pay protections on the books, many believe these protections don’t go far enough and want to see additional measures put in place.

The issue has been discussed in the context of the current presidential campaign, with Hillary Clinton pushing for updates to the federal Equal Pay Act so that employers could be punished for retaliating against workers who share their salary information. The proposal has been called the Paycheck Fairness Act, the proponents of which argue that the federal Equal Pay Act doesn’t do enough to allow women to determine whether they are receiving fair pay for their work in comparison to other employees.   

What exactly is the Equal Pay Act, though, and what does it do? Essentially, the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from discriminating between employees on the basis of sex by paying different wage rates for equal work on jobs which require equal skill, effort and responsibility and which are performed under similar working conditions. There are several exceptions to this rule, including situations where difference in wages is based on merit, the quality or quantity of work performed, seniority, or another factor other than sex. Employers, understandably, often try to argue their way out of a violation of the law by attempting to prove that differences in wage rates are based on one of these factors.

Even given these exceptions, though, employers are prohibited from reducing the wages of any employees to account for wage rate differences. If there is evidence that an employer has done this, the employer is barred from claiming an exception from the equal pay rule.

In our next post, we’ll look at Minnesota’s equal pay protection law, and how an experienced attorney can help represent an individual harmed by their employer’s violations of the measure.