THE EQUAL PAY ACT « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Equal Work = Equal Pay

The 1963 federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires employers to pay men and women equally for performing the same, or essentially the same, work. While the law is worded neutrally (it is just as unlawful to underpay either gender), Congress enacted the EPA to remedy the long-standing pay discrimination against women.

The National Committee on Pay Equity demonstrates the entrenched disparities present in 1963 are far from rectified.  For example, the NCPE reports: “Census statistics released September 16, 2010 show that the women still earn 77 percent of what men earn, based on the median earnings of full-time, year-round workers in 2009. Both men’s and women’s earnings showed slight increases from 2008 to 2009, with men’s at $47,127 and women’s at $36,278, a difference of $10,849.” Also according to the NCPE: “Women who graduate from college earn only 72% as much as men with the same education.”

In addition to equal wages, women are also entitled to the same benefits, including vacation time,  health insurance, profit sharing, retirement plans, and bonuses.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the EPA is its protection against wage discrimination for equivalent jobs, not only identical ones.  Courts focus not on job titles but on job duties, skill, effort, and responsibility and whether work is performed under similar conditions.  For example, it could be argued that a company paying its receptionists (made up largely of females) less than its customer service representatives (made up largely of male employees) may be in violation of the EPA if the jobs could be shown equivalent in skill, workload, etc.

For a suggested employer procedure to confirm or strengthen EPA compliance, see the NCPE’s “Ten Step Guide.” An experienced employment law attorney can assist with policies and other preventative measures.