In spite of overblown claims about post-feminism in the past several years, women continue to be paid less than men over their lifetimes. Often, those trying to fight this fact argue that women might be paid less because they have more responsibility for children or because they don’t negotiate their salaries as well or because they choose lower-paid positions. However, gender bias affects women of all ages, education levels, and races.
According to a study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women working full time in the United States are paid just 80% of what men are paid, which is a gap of 20%. The gap is even worse for women of color, although it has narrowed since 1960. Women are only expected to reach pay parity with men in 2059, and then only if progress doesn’t stall as it has since 2001. Recently, progress has stalled, and it is possible women’s salaries won’t be on par with men’s salaries until 2152—not even during the lifetimes of girls born today.
As a result of the gender pay gap, about 14% of adult women under age 65 are living below the federal poverty level, as compared to 11% of men. Meanwhile, 10% of women over retirement age are living below the federal poverty level. The pay gap continues to affect retirees because when women retire, they don’t get as much income from Social Security or pensions because they were paid less during their work years.
Many families rely on women to work, and about 40% of mothers with minor children are their families’ primary or sole breadwinners. Accordingly, the gender pay gap also affects children and men.
In 1963, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) with the Equal Pay Act. It was supposed to get rid of wage disparity based on sex or gender. It prohibits sex discrimination in the payment of wages to employees on the basis of sex. In other words, it is supposed to provide equal pay for equal work, or equal pay for work that requires equal skill, responsibility, and effort under similar working conditions. There are exceptions when the payment is made based on a merit system, seniority system, or system that measures earnings by the quantity or quality of production or some other factor besides sex.
Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee due to sex, although it doesn’t target discrimination in the payment of wages in particular. It addresses all types of discrimination, rather than just those related to employee compensation.
When an employee seeks equal pay under Title VII, she needs to first submit a charge to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This agency determines whether there is probable cause to believe there was discrimination, although it doesn’t always get it right. Only after the investigation or after a notice of right to sue is issued can an employee file a lawsuit in court. Under the Equal Pay Act, you can proceed directly to court, although the EEOC has the authority to investigate your claim.
Often, a civil claim is the only way for women to obtain equal pay for equal work.
It can be important to obtain representation from an experienced employment lawyer when you have a dispute with your employer regarding discrimination or other matters. Contact us at (214) 528-6500 or via our online intake form.
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