All employees are entitled to receive the same pay as their colleagues at the same workplace for doing either the same work or work of equivalent value.
No one should be paid less because of protected characteristics like sex and race.
Equal pay law covers more than just your salary. For example, if two employees receive the same salary and produce the same quality of work, but one gets a smaller bonus because of a protected characteristic, this would also be discrimination.
An equal pay claim can result in your pay and/or terms of employment being improved. You can also be paid back lost earnings and may be entitled to compensation for any distress caused.
If you are thinking about making an equal pay claim, our lawyers can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case and advise on the best course of action.
Table of Contents
- Equal Pay in the US
- Pursuing an Equal Pay claim in the UK
- Our work on Equal Pay
Equal Pay in the US
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits sex-based wage discrimination, making it illegal to pay women less than men and vice versa. This law aims to correct the wage gap and provide equal work opportunities for all.
What is Equal Work?
Equal work means work performed under similar working conditions and which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility. Two employees may be doing equal work even if they have different job titles or positions within their company.
Gender Wage Gap
Although wage disparities due to gender have decreased, women workers still tend to earn less than men for performing substantially equal work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly salary of full-time female workers was 82% of what their male counterparts earned in 2020 in the USA.
The Equal Pay Act does not apply when workers are paid differently on the basis of seniority, merit, the quantity and/or quality of output, or any other “wage differentials based on factors other than gender”.:
An employer has a right to justify the differences in payments in defense of an Equal Pay Act claim.
How to bring a claim under the Equal Pay Act?
If you suspect your employer is paying you less than a colleague or colleagues who use equal skill and responsibility to perform their role, you may want to consider filing a discrimination complaint. McAllister Olivarius is ready to provide you with professional legal advice including an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your claim.
If there is no direct way of learning the exact salary of your colleagues, you can ask them general questions and document important information you learn. First, you need to find people who do similar work to yours in your company. Second, find the right time and place to discuss the salary. Some peers might get awkward talking about their income in the office. Consider inviting them for coffee, lunch or a drink to have a friendly chat. You can get the conversation going by asking them whether they think they deserve a raise.
Another way to learn how much a person would earn in your position is to contact your HR department. You could ask them to provide you with a salary range for your position or a similar one.
You should also keep records of your salary, keep working and analyzing the situation in your workplace.
There is a time limit for filing an Equal Pay Act claim in court.
Most discrimination claims arise under Title VII and have to be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the employer’s latest act of discrimination, and these include claims that you are paid less because of a protected characteristic like race, sex or age. However, if you plan to file an Equal Pay Act claim, you are allowed to go to court directly without filing a charge first with the EEOC. This separate option gives you two years to file a lawsuit.
Practically, it often makes sense to bring all discrimination claims together, so you want to act before the shortest applicable deadline expires. Therefore, it is best not to delay in seeking advice.
State Equal Pay laws
Although the federal Equal Pay Act only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, many states have similar laws that prohibit employers from paying employees less for equal work based on other protected characteristics such as race or nationality.
How is the Equal Pay Act different from Title VII?
Congress passed the Equal Pay Act (EPA), one of the first federal laws to address sex discrimination, in 1963. A year later, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act expanded federal protection against workplace discrimination and made it illegal for employers to discriminate based on:
- National origin
Read more about Title VII and other laws prohibiting workplace discrimination here.
Pursuing an Equal Pay claim in the UK
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 replaced previous statutes on equal pay, including the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Discrimination Act 1975.
Under the Equality Act 2010, men and women are entitled to equal pay for doing ‘equal work’. Equal work means:
- ‘like work’ where the job and skills are the same or similar
- ‘work rated as equivalent’ using a fair job evaluation that shows that the level of skill, responsibility and effort needed to the do the work are equivalent
- ‘work of equal value’ where work is not similar but is of equal value, including where the skill, training, responsibility or demands of the working conditions are of equal value
An employer can defend itself by showing that the employee who is paid more is better qualified, has skills crucial to the job or is hard to recruit. Location may also be a relevant factor in paying employees differently for similar work. Conditions such as regular nightshifts might justify paying one employee more than another.
If you know or suspect you are being paid less than someone else for identical or comparable work, first try to collect the facts from fellow employees. No one is required to tell you how much they make, but sometimes they will. You can also ask your employer about pay and conditions of work in general terms. They should tell you what categories of employees are earning. They are not required to tell you what an individual earns.
Additionally, in England and Wales, employers with 250 or more employees must report on their gender pay gaps. You can search and compare gender pay gap data on the government’s website here.
If you believe you are being paid less unfairly due to a protected characteristic, you may want to talk to your employer and try to resolve it informally or through your employer’s grievance process.
You should not be retaliated against for raising this concern. However, if you fear retaliation, you may want to consult a lawyer before raising an informal or formal complaint or grievance.
If your internal complaint doesn’t get anywhere, you can make an equal pay claim to an employment tribunal. There you will need to show that a person or multiple people doing comparable work to you without your protected characteristic are receiving better pay or conditions. If so, you should be able to receive compensation.
If you are thinking about making an equal pay claim, our lawyers can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case, advise you on the best course of action, and advocate for you. We can advise on whether your case also counts as discrimination. If you think you are facing unequal pay, information on all of your options is available via Acas.
Our work on Equal Pay
We have extensive experience handling discrimination and equal pay cases. We can provide advice on your options if you think you may have received different pay or conditions of employment based on your sex or other protected characteristics.
We can help you build the strongest case before you negotiate with your employer or take it to a tribunal. Many clients prefer private settlements, but we can also litigate publicly to secure justice and compensation.