In the United States, despite laws like the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in place to protect individuals from being unfairly paid in comparison to their counterparts––unfortunately, thousands of women, minorities, and other historically disadvantaged groups are still subjected to pay discrimination in the workplace. But what exactly is pay discrimination, and how can you prove it? Below we'll walk you through understanding what exactly pay discrimination is and how, if you believe you have experienced or are currently experiencing pay discrimination in your place of work, you can not only prove it but fight back.
What Is Pay Discrimination?
Pay discrimination happens when employees are paid less when performing the same or similar work as their counterparts, typically based on characteristics such as gender, age, race, national origin, disability, and more. Pay discrimination can severely affect an individual's life, making it difficult to support themselves and those who may depend on them.
Examples of Pay Discrimination
A few examples that demonstrate when pay discrimination may be occurring in the workplace are as follows:
- When women are offered lower starting salaries than male employees in the same job, who have similar skills and qualifications.
- When Hispanic or Black employees are paid less than White employees even though their performance evaluations are similar
- When employees with disabilities are given raises only for superior performance, while employees without disabilities are given raises for adequate performance.
How Can You Prove Pay Discrimination?
Sometimes it can be tricky to prove that you are experiencing pay discrimination in the workplace. Below we've gone ahead and listed four things you can do to help prove that you are experiencing pay discrimination.
Discuss Pay & Gather Data: Talking to your coworkers about pay can clear up the mystery behind whether or not you are being paid less than your counterparts for the same job. Once you have the data needed, start looking into the differences, and if you notice any disparities in pay, begin considering the reasons behind them. Does experience, education, or job duties delineate the differences in pay?
Investigate for Discrimination: Review the information you've gathered and see if changes have been made based on gender, race, age, or national origin. If you discover that you or those individuals who share protected characteristics have been paid less than your counterparts, this could be a clear display of pay discrimination.
Know the Law: In the United States, there are multiple federal and state laws in place to prohibit pay discrimination based on gender, race, age, and other protected characteristics. Knowing the laws that protect your rights can help you identify if you are experiencing pay discrimination and what legal actions you are eligible to take. The laws that protect you from pay discrimination are as follows:
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits pay discrimination based on gender.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits pay discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits pay discrimination based on age,
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits pay discrimination based on disability.
Document the Evidence: Keep a detailed record of the differences in pay you discover. This information can come from your coworkers or by other means. Keeping a diary that displays the pay differences as they occur in the workspace. Also, ensure to save any emails, texts, social media posts, or letters that may indicate a clear or even subtle difference in your workplace that shows a difference in how individuals are treated based on gender lines or any other protected characteristics.
Evidence includes a record of hours worked, bonuses earned, changes in pay rates, job responsibilities and duties, and communication or feedback from your employer that could reflect any changes. We highly recommend you keep these records up-to-date and organized.
File a Formal Complaint: Once you have enough evidence collected, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you decide to file a formal complaint over what you discover to be pay discrimination, know that it is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for doing so. Retaliation from an employer can look like wage lowering, reducing your work hours, or other forms of punishment to get you back down.
Are There Any Valid Reasons for Pay Differences?
No, there are absolutely no valid reasons for pay discrimination. However, not every instance in which an employee is paid differently is considered discrimination. In some cases, employers may pay their employees differently due to certain factors, including higher education, more experience, or more training in the role. Examples of this are when a male employee is paid more than a female employee because he has a higher degree or has a greater number of years of experience in the role. While in these particular cases, it may not be unlawful.
However, if the pay difference does not reasonably reflect the difference in experience, there could be a case of pay discrimination. An example of unreasonable reasons would be if the male employee only had one more year over their female coworker. The additional year of work would likely not justify the difference in pay for the male vs. the female employee.
At Morgan & Morgan, we know that fighting pay discrimination is no easy task to do alone. If you have any questions regarding pay discrimination in the United States, or if you believe you have been subject to pay discrimination, we highly suggest seeking legal counsel. Talking to a Morgan & Morgan labor & employment attorney will help you ensure that you understand the laws in your state that are in place to protect you. An attorney may also be able to help guide you through the process of filing a complaint as well as point out any missed information you could contribute to your case in order to further prove you’ve been subject to pay discrimination by your employer.
For more information regarding proving pay discrimination in the workplace, you can connect with our attorneys today by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form today.