Providing trusted legal counsel for credit unions, banks, businesses and individuals in the Tri-state area since 1989.

Understanding the Equal Pay Act

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2023 | Employee Rights |

Women have gained many workplace rights over the years, but the unfortunate reality is that sometimes women are still paid less than men in New York workplaces. Knowing if you have a claim under the Equal Pay Act can be tricky, because although you are legally allowed to discuss salary with your co-workers, the subject is often avoided.

If you are a woman and find out that you are being paid less than a man, the Equal Pay Act could provide you with a remedy. The terms of the act are rather simple: men and women must receive equal pay for equal work.

What pay does the act cover?

The act applies to all types of pay, not just your hourly rate or yearly salary. The law also covers overtime pay, vacation time, holiday time, reimbursement of expenses and even profit sharing or stock option plans.

The first thing to do if you learn you are being paid less than a man is determine if you are performing the same position. To obtain relief under the act, you do not need to be performing the exact same position, but you must be in a position that is substantially equal.

There are various factors that are examined when deciding if employees are performing substantially equal jobs. The act states that to be substantially equal, the work duties must involve substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility.

Defining skill, effort and responsibility

Skill means the skill necessary to perform that particular job, not the individual skills of you and your co-worker. Skill is examined by looking at the education, experience and ability to perform the job, not by examining your individual background.

Effort involves the physical or mental exertion necessary to perform the job. This factor can be challenging to prove because some jobs involve a certain measure of physical strength to perform.

For example, if you and a male co-worker both work a physical job, but one step of the job requires lifting and moving heavy equipment over to another area and you cannot perform that step, your jobs may not be considered substantially equal and your employer could have a legally valid reason for paying your male co-worker a higher rate.

Responsibility examines your level of accountability. You and a male co-worker could perform the same job tasks but have different responsibilities.

If you both are given the title of manager, but you are tasked with doing routine paperwork while your male co-worker oversees ordering and performing quarterly inventories, an argument can be made that he has more responsibility.

Employer defenses

Your employer can assert various defenses to a claim filed against them. Differences in pay are legal when they are based on a factor other than sex, such as merit, seniority, the amount of work performed or quality of work.

You must show that you perform the same or substantially equal job and receive different pay, but your employer has the burden of proving one of these defenses.

The right to equal pay is an important right that deserves protection. If you believe you have a valid claim, you should act quickly. The time limit to file a claim under the Act is two years.