Discrimination in Pay: The Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), 29 U. S. C. 206(d), is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the Supreme Court noted that in enacting the Equal Pay Act, Congress sought to remedy what was perceived to be a serious problem of employment discrimination based on an ancient, outmoded belief that a man, because of his role in society, should be paid more than a woman even though his duties are the same.

The Equal Pay Act prohibits wage discrimination between men and women employees at the workplace when men and women do not receive the same pay even though men and woman perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibilities under similar working conditions. The Equal Pay Act prohibits sex/gender discrimination and requires that employers pay men and women at the same rate of pay or salary when men and women perform the same or similar jobs, the performance of which require equal skill, effort, and responsibility. Exceptions exist when unequal pay results from a lawful seniority system, merit system; a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or the differential otherwise exists based upon a factor other than gender / sex.

An example of a violation of the Equal Pay Act is when a male manager receives a higher salary than a female manager with the same job title or duties. An employer violates the Equal Pay Act when its pay policies cause or attempt to cause the employer to discriminate against an employee based upon the employee’s gender/sex. Employees who are able to demonstrate that their employers violate the Equal Pay Act and discriminate at the workplace on the basis of gender/sex in their pay policies are able to successfully recover the differences in wages as well as other penalties and damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees.

A female employee establishes what the law calls a prima facie case of an Equal Pay Act violation by showing that the employer paid male employees more for work of substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, under similar working conditions. In order to do so, a comprehensive assessment of the job must take place. The issue is not the job title or a name under which a job is classified but the actual duties. It must be shown that the jobs have a common core of tasks (i.e., whether a significant portion of two jobs is identical). If the jobs share a common core of tasks, then the inquiry turns to whether the other tasks make the work substantially different. In determining whether the jobs are similar, courts consider whether the tasks require similar quality and quantity of production, education, relevant prior work experience, conduct and skill. Courts only consider the qualifications and skills necessary to perform the job, not the specific qualifications of the employees who occupy the positions. The focus of the inquiry is on job, not a comparison of individual abilities of employees. Actual duties and are relied upon rather than job descriptions.

One an employee has established a prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act, the burden then shifts to the employer to establish that the disparity in pay is due to a factor other than sex through one of the four affirmative defenses (1) a seniority system, (2) a merit system, (3) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or (4) a system based upon any other factor other than sex. (“the catchall defense”).

A significant change in enforcement of the Equal Pay Act occurred in 2009 when Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Lilly Ledbetter was a production supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant who filed a lawsuit claiming that she was being paid less than a male employee who did the same work and that she was subjected to pay discrimination based upon her sex. This law made a key change to Supreme Court law by clarifying that discrimination in pay based on age, religion, national origin, race, sex and disability occurs every time that the employee receives a paycheck.

We represent employees when their employers have violated The Equal Pay Act and discriminate between men and women in terms of pay. Call Abramson Employment Law at 267-470-4742 or contact us online to discuss your legal options for claim under the Equal Pay Act. usage prevalent in Pennsylvania for the business that is the subject of the relationship between the parties shall control.

The law does not restrict any other rights or remedies available to sales representatives or preclude sales representatives from seeking to recover in one action on all claims against a principal. The law cannot be waived by agreement or by an attempt to make a contract or agreement subject to the laws of another state.

When the principal fails to comply with the law, a sales representative may file a civil action for all commissions due, plus exemplary damages, defined as damages in an amount not to exceed two times the commissions due, plus the costs of the lawsuit, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. There is also a frivolous action provision, so that if judgment is entered for the principal and the court determines that the action was brought on frivolous grounds, the court can award reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs to the principal.

If you are a commissioned sales representative who has not been paid all commissions earned, call Abramson Employment Law at 267-470-4742, or contact us online to discuss your legal options for a claim under the Pennsylvania Commissioned Sales Representatives Law. options.

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