Pay equality has become a hot topic, backed by presidential candidates, CEOs and even A-list actors. Pay discrimination on the basis of sex has long been illegal. Both the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Equal Pay Act of 1963 forbid paying someone less for the same work because of their gender. And though the Obama administration tried to increase transparency and strengthen the laws regarding wage disparities in the past, women still continue to get paid less than their male counterparts – and continue to have a hard time proving that. The following stats show how women are generally underpaid in the United States of America.
- In 2015, women only earned 83% of what men did working comparable hours, as per a Pew Research Center study. This is relatively better as compared to 1980 when women only earned 67 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.
- The United States Census Bureau puts the numbers at even less – 80% of what is earned by men – when only full-time, year-round employees are taken into account.
- The percentage increases a little for women between the ages of 25 and 34, showing that young women and older women have it worse when it comes to equal pay discrimination. Women who were part of this age demographic earned 90% of men’s wages and salaries, though this is still dramatically less than equal.
- Women are required to work an extra 44 days on average to earn the same yearly salary as men.
- Even when it comes to job types such as child care, which are mainly dominated by women, they still earn only around 95% of men’s wages for doing the same work.
Women and Promotion
As per UrbanMinistry.org, women might have to work longer to receive promotions that pave the way to higher pay. For instance, among school principals, females have an average of three years longer as teachers as compared to men. However, as concluded by the Pew Research Center, this is at least slightly attributable to the fact that females more often take breaks from work to look after their families. Approximately one out of four women reported to either take extended breaks or reduce their working hours owing to family issues and childbirth.
The Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 does not obligate that jobs held by women and men must be similar for the purpose of receiving the same amount of pay, but they should be “substantially identical”, which is a subtle way of saying that each carries out much of the same tasks regardless of the job title. The Act allows aggrieved employees to take their complaints directly to the federal or state court system without having to first make a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Workers are not allowed to equalize pay in the face of a grievance by reducing the salary or wages of the higher paid employee.
Among the reasons given to defend unequal pay were these: working women had a higher turnover rate due to the fact that they had more family obligations; some state laws forbid women from working during nighttime while other laws restricted the actual number of hours women who could work and the amount of weight they could lift. The laws depicted historical bias that plagued the compensation system of the US during that time span; in the 1950s 2/3rd of all American families had a stay-at-home wife and a breadwinning husband. A woman’s earnings were not thought important to the household’s survival.
The EPA allows differences in wages on the basis of merit, seniority, quantity, quality of production, or other differentials not based on gender. In Equal Pay Act cases, plaintiffs have the burden of evidence to show that women were paid less as compared to their male counterparts and that the work involved was significantly equal. From 1963 until the passage of the Educational Amendments in 1972, those working in administrative, executive, or professional fields were excluded from the protection of the EPA due to its incorporation with the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) which included those exclusions. Due to the Reorganization Act of 1977, the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act switched to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1979, where it remains to this day.
New Jersey and the New Equal Pay Act
New Jersey is on the verge of implementing the most sweeping equal pay law in all of America. On 27th March 2018, the New Jersey Legislature accepted the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, which alters the LAD (Law Against Discrimination) to reinforce defenses against employment bias and encourage equal pay rights for women.
Women working full-time in the US back in 2015 were able to earn only 80 cents for each dollar that males earned, and at this pace, females are not likely to reach pay equality until 2059 as per a report published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
With this law, New Jersey would have in place the most stringent protections against pay unfairness, according to state. Pamela Lampitt, assemblywoman, is one of the main sponsors of the bill. Taking effect on 1st July, 2018, the Act amends the LAD by making it illegal for an employer to pay any worker who is a member of a protected class less than the rate paid to other workers who are not members of that protected class for “significantly similar work when viewed as a composite of effort, responsibility, and skill. The Act is therefore much diverse than just promoting gender pay equality. Rather, it expands equal pay based on the membership in the protected class which includes race, inter alia, color, ancestry, marital status, domestic partnership status, national origin, color, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, genetic information, gender expression or identity, or liability for service in the military.
However, the Act does include limited exceptions regarding when an employer might pay a different rate of compensation to members of the protected class, including if the pay difference is the result of a merit-based system or seniority.
Under the Act, an illegal employment practice can take place every time an employer’s pay practices are biased towards a worker, and the worker can demand to get paid for a 6 year period. In terms of damages, if an employer is found guilty of breaking the pay practices as laid down in the Act, a jury or judge can award treble damages for the law-breaking. These damages are also available to a worker who can prove that her employer got even with her for discussing, requesting, or disclosing to a) any other worker or ex-employee of the employer, b) a lawyer from whom the worker seeks legal assistance or c) any government organization, information related to employee pay practices/ compensation. Similarly, treble damages are given to a worker or future employee who is requested by the employer to sign a waiver related to disclosing or discussing rates or pay practices.
The wage gap is getting smaller but equal pay is still a prevalent problem in New Jersey. If you feel your rights have been violated talk to a New Jersey Discrimination Attorney today. We offer a free, confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case.