Equal pay, for equal work. This is an idea that in theory makes sense. If two workers are doing equal work, in a similar environment, and are required to have equal responsibility, effort, and skill, then putting this theory into practice in the real world, should be a no brainer. However, this has not always been the case, and workers doing equal work have not always received equal pay. While there are many different ways employers can discriminate against an employee, the type of discrimination discussed below will be about gender discrimination and its current state in the work force, also called the gender pay gap.
When discussing gender discrimination in the work force, many people talk about the gender pay gap. The reason for this is that the gender pay gap shows the discrepancy between the average wage of men and women. The gender pay gap has shown that women on average only make a fraction of what their male counterparts make. To combat this issue, in 1963 the Equal Pay Act(EPA) was signed into law. It states that employers are not allowed to pay a lower wage to an employee based on an employee’s sex. It goes on to mention, that the EPA is applied to workers who are doing equal work as described in the theory above. There are, some provisions in which payment between two employees doing equal work is allowed to be different. These exceptions are: a merit system, a seniority system, a quantity or quality of production system, or a determining factor based on anything other than gender. Under the aforementioned systems, there is the possibility of wage discrepancy between workers doing equal work, but it has to have nothing to do with their gender and does not fall under another type of discrimination.
Since its enactment in 1963, the EPA has been under significant scrutiny. There are claims that the 4th provision is too vague and allows employers to discriminate based on gender, but have a “valid” reason as to it not being gender discrimination. In 2005, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced the “Paycheck Fairness Act”. This act would amend the fourth provision to make it so only job-related factors or legitimate business interests could result in wage differences between people of opposite gender doing equal work. The other three provisions have not been brought up for review. At the same time, Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced an identical bill to the House of Representatives. While many similar bills under the same name have come down the pipeline, none have passed in either the House or the Senate. This does not mean that the EPA is unchangeable, in fact it was amended only nine years after its enactment.
Another problem with the EPA was, there were some positions within companies that were not covered. These positions were executives, professionals, outside salespeople, and administrators. After the Education Amendment of 1972, the EPA was changed to include those positions. This amendment is very important, because at least two of the positions, executives and administrators, are commonly highly paid. An equal percentage gap at a higher wage, would mean more money is being held from the person being discriminated against. Also this raise in income would have a positive effect on the gender pay gap by pulling the average amount that women make higher.
There has been a lot of talk about this gender pay gap, but what exactly is it and how has it changed since the induction of the EPA. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salaries of women compared to men in an equal environment has not been equal, and for a while it was not even close. In 1979 women earned only 62% of men’s earnings, while in 2004 women earned 80%. While that is a drastic increase, it is clear that there is still a gender pay gap between men and women.
It is obvious that the EPA has helped decrease the size gender pay gap, but it still exists. There have been many studies as to why this is still the case and the findings point to a difference in the types of jobs men and women choose. This is brings up a problem because it is unclear whether there is a need for the wage gap to be fixed by legislation, since it may be created by the individual choices of the male and females in the work force.
This does not mean that sex discrimination does not exist. Nor is this any type of a substitute for legal counsel if you feel you have been discriminated against. Please seek a local employment law attorney for further guidance if you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer.
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