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Looking at federal, state equal pay protection laws, P.2

Previously, we began looking at the federal Equal Pay Act, which requires employers to pay equal wage rates to employees who perform essentially equal work. Employees who have been unfairly subjected to unequal pay on the job, by law, are able to seek relief by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers and enforces the law.

If the commission finds that an employer has violated the law, the complainant may be entitled to unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation, as the case may be, as well as liquidated damages.  It may also be possible, depending on the case, to have a court order employment, reinstatement, promotion, or payment of lost wages. Working with an experienced attorney in the EEOC complaint process can help ensure one has strong representation throughout the process and that appropriate remedies are sought. 

Minnesota also has its own prohibition against sex-based wage discrimination in the Equal Pay for Equal Work Law. The general prohibition of this measure is very similar to the federal law, and includes the same exceptions for seniority, merit, production quality or quantity, and factors others than sex. Important to note is that the law does not recognize the validity of agreements for wage differences based on sex, so employers cannot argue that the employee consented to the wage differential in their case.

Under the Minnesota law, employees may sue an employer who has violated the law to recover the amount of unpaid wages to which he or she is entitled for the year preceding the filing of the action. Courts also have the discretion to order an equal amount of exemplary damages as a means of deterring other employers from violating the law, as well as reasonable attorney fees. Of course, having an experienced attorney to make a strong legal argument can help give a plaintiff the best shot at maximizing their damages.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at a recent Minnesota case involving allegations of illegal unequal pay.