The Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires that men and women employed at the same workplace be paid equally for equal work. A majority in Congress passed this Act in 1963. The subject employment need not be identical, but it must be noticeably equal. Job responsibilities and content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal. All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, profit sharing, bonuses overtime pay, stock options, and bonus plans, life insurance, holiday pay and vacation, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and all types of fringe benefits. If there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.

An individual alleging a violation of the EPA may go directly to court and is not required to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge beforehand. The time limit for filing an EPA charge with the EEOC and the time limit for going to court are the same: within two years of the alleged unlawful compensation practice or, in the case of a willful violation, within three years. The filing of an EEOC charge under the EPA does not extend the time frame for going to court.

Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in pay and benefits. Therefore, someone who has an EPA claim may also have a claim under Title VII.

Although this Act has been on the books for several decades, one can argue there has not been enough change to shore up the disparity between how men and women are compensated in the workplace. Statistics tend to support this contention. Women working full time, on a yearly basis in the United States earn a median annual salary of $36,931, compared to men’s $47,715. That translates to American women earning $10,784 less than men each year. Fortunately, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is trying to curb this trend and create more transparency and equality in the workplace. Specifically, Sen. Gillibrand, is trying to promote the Paycheck Fairness Act. She has stated “it’s illegal to discriminate against women in pay and if we have better enforcement mechanisms, we can hold more companies accountable.”

If this bill passes it would allow employees to openly discuss and share wage information without fear of retaliation, one of the primary challenges faced by Lilly Ledbetter, who inspired the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed in 2009.

If you believe you or your family member was and/or has been discriminated against in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Risman & Risman, P.C. at (212) 233-6400 or contact us online.

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