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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although wage discrimination cases are difficult to prove, many people have successfully brought claims against discriminating employers. These are a few examples.
Wilson sued the company under the Equal Pay Act and received a check for nearly $240,000 in back pay.
“Sex discrimination, against men and women alike, continues to be a problem in the 21st century workplace,”
“This case should remind corporate America that employment decisions must be based on merit and ability to do the job – not on gender stereotypes.”
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