Women make up nearly half the workforce in the United States. Not only do women earn more and have higher levels of education than men but almost half of mothers are the primary family breadwinner.
Yet, to this day, women continue to earn far less than men doing the same job.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women earn less than men in almost every occupation, including those dominated by women like nursing. Not only is this immoral but it is also against the law. Wage equality is protected under several laws, including the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Although wage discrimination is difficult to prove, many people who have been paid less than counterparts have taken employers to court and won. Call a Maryland wage discrimination lawyer for more.
What is Wage Discrimination?
At its core, wage discrimination is when an employer pays a person less than another for substantially equal work because of a specific characteristic, such as race, color, religion, sex, age, or disability.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) makes it clear that the jobs do not have to be identical nor does it depend on job titles. If a man and a woman are doing a job that is substantially similar, they should be paid equal wages.
The law surrounding wage discrimination protects all forms of compensation from inequality, including salary, overtime pay, stock options, bonuses, life insurance, travel expenses, vacation pay, benefits, profit sharing, and more.
Examples of Wage Discrimination
Wage discrimination is most commonly associated with the gender pay gap between men and women. While women deal with the systematic problem of unequal pay, many others also experience compensation discrimination at work.
Here are a few types of wage discrimination:
Gender discrimination is the most widely known type of wage discrimination. In nearly every occupation, women are paid less than men for doing the same job.
Racial wage gaps remain in the United States, despite narrowing over the years. Black and Hispanic workers often get paid less than their white and Asian counterparts.
It is against the law for people to pay older workers less than younger workers if they are doing a substantially similar job. Age discrimination laws protect adults who are over 40.
Those with disabilities often have a difficult time finding employment and are almost always paid lower than their counterparts.
The law also forbids compensation discrimination based on religion.
Wage Discrimination Statistics
Wage discrimination has been the center of studies for decades. The studies often paint a revealing picture of the state of unequal pay in the country.
On average, women are paid around 80 cents for every dollar the typical man is paid.
Gender wage discrimination affects nearly every field without regard for education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women in hundreds of different kinds of jobs in different fields still experienced wage discrimination. This includes fields dominated by women. For example, far more women teach elementary and middle school, but men still take home more money.
Black and Hispanic women experience the largest pay gaps. Gender wage discrimination is exacerbated when race is taken into account. The Economic Policy Institute found that black and Hispanic women are paid “substantially less” than white men.
“Compared to non-Hispanic white men, white non-Hispanic women are paid 81 cents on the dollar and Asian women are paid 88 cents on the dollar,” the institute wrote. “But the penalty is much larger for black and Hispanic women, who are paid only 65 cents and 59 cents on the white male dollar, respectively.”
Workers with disabilities earn about 37% less than workers without disabilities, or about 63 cents for every dollar. In some states, the disparity is even higher, according to the American Institutes for Research. The disparity also increases dramatically with higher educational attainment.
Over the years, the wage gap has slowly narrowed. However, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates women would not reach pay parity until 2059 if the gap closed at the pace it has for the last 50 years. Hispanic women would have to wait until 2248 and black women would have to wait until 2124.
The Laws Surrounding Wage Discrimination
Equal pay is protected under several federal laws. The four main federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination are the Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and American Disabilities Act.
Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act aimed at eliminating the wage disparity between men and women. The law states no employer should discriminate based on sex by paying unequal wages.
According to the EEOC, the law “provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.”
Pay can be different if it is based on merit, seniority, quantity, quality of production, or any factors other than sex.
Title VII Of The Civil Rights Act
Not long after the Equal Pay Act, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality in general. Title VII of the act deals specifically with prohibiting discrimination in the workplace.
Age Discrimination In Employment Act
This federal law forbids an employer from discriminating against anyone at least 40 years of age. The ADEA deals with discrimination in hiring, statements on age preferences, denial of benefits for older employees, and mandatory retirement. The act only applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
Americans With Disabilities Act
Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability. It is similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act but also requires employers to provide accommodations to employees with disabilities.
Proving Wage Discrimination Gender Bias
Proving compensation discrimination based on sex is notoriously difficult. Despite hundreds of complaints sent to the EEOC every year, only a fraction actually lead to a resolution.
The reason is that an employer can argue the difference in pay was justified by the exclusions in the Equal Pay Act. For example, an employer can say that the difference in wages between a man and woman with a substantially equal job is based on the quality of output or seniority.
The Equal Pay Act also says a difference in pay is acceptable as long as it is based “on any other factor other than sex.” This means an employer can say that the man asked for a raise when the woman did not or took a few more courses relevant to the job.
Finding out the salary of a counterpart is also difficult yet important in proving wage discrimination.
Past Wage Discrimination Cases
Although wage discrimination cases are difficult to prove, many people have successfully brought claims against discriminating employers. These are a few examples.
Heidi Wilson Vs. Citicorp
In 2009, Heidi Wilson was promoted to a managerial position at Citicorp, a subsidiary of Citibank, but did not receive a bonus like her male predecessor. After being bypassed for a bonus again in 2011, she requested a market analysis on the company and was subsequently fired.
Wilson sued the company under the Equal Pay Act and received a check for nearly $240,000 in back pay.
Kangela Moore Vs. New York City
Kangela Moore worked as a school safety agent for more than two decades until she found out that she was making $7,000 less than men working similar jobs. She sued the city along with 5,000 other school safety agents. The city eventually settled the class-action lawsuit for $38 million.
Lawry’s Restaurants Class-Action Lawsuit
Men have successfully filed wage discrimination lawsuits as well. In 2009, Lawry’s Restaurants agreed to a settlement of more than $1 million for allegedly failing to hire men into food server positions.
“Sex discrimination, against men and women alike, continues to be a problem in the 21st century workplace,” EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru said in a statement at the time. “This case should remind corporate America that employment decisions must be based on merit and ability to do the job – not on gender stereotypes.”
If you believe you might have a case, contact our Maryland wage discrimination lawyers for a consultation.