The Equal Pay Act of 1963, passed as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, was created by Congress in an attempt to right sex-based pay inequities that have historically plagued the earning potential of women. The hope of the Equal Pay Act was for women to receive “equal pay for equal work.” In order to rectify the pay inequalities, the Equal Pay Act prohibits pay rate discrimination that is based solely on an employee’s gender. When a man and a woman work under similar conditions in roles of relative equal responsibility, as well as effort and skill level, both should be paid the same amount. It should be noted, however, that an employer is allowed to pay those in similar job functions different pay rates if based on something other than gender and legitimate, such as seniority or educational background.
What Happens If An Employer is Violating the Equal Pay Act?
If your employer has been violating the Equal Pay Act, you may file a claim accordingly. Time, however, is of the essence in bringing such a claim. There is a two-year statute of limitations imposed on Equal Pay Act claims and it begins to run upon the employee discovering the discrimination.
In order to bring a successful claim pursuant to an employer violating the Equal Pay Act, the claimant must be able to prove all of the following:
- An employer-employee relationship exists;
- There is a difference in pay based solely on gender;
- The work was performed under comparable working conditions;
- The work involved was equal based on requisite level of skill, effort, and responsibility demanded of the job;
- The claimant was paid less than another employee of the opposite sex who performed the same work
An employee making a claim against an employer for an alleged violation of the Equal Pay Act will carry the burden of proof in demonstrating that all the above factors exist. This can be best accomplished by preserving all relevant documents and evidence needed to support your claim. This may include documents and information relating to pay or salary, such as pay stubs and hiring contracts as well as those relating to communications with your employer about pay. Statements from other employees and supervisors may also be relevant to provide support for your claim. Once the claim has been established, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to provide a valid defense to the claim.
If an employee brings a valid claim pursuant to the Equal Pay Act and the employer is unable to demonstrate a valid defense, then the employer will be found guilty of violating the Act. The employer will then be responsible for paying the employee compensatory damages for losses sustained as a result of the illegal actions of the employer. Should an employee be able to demonstrate that an employer willfully violated the Equal Pay Act, the court may hold the employer liable for paying the claimant punitive damages as well.
New Jersey Employment Law Attorneys
Do you suspect an employer is paying you differently based on your sex? Castronovo & McKinney can help determine whether you may have a valid claim under the Equal Pay Act. Contact us today.