Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified person in pay or benefits on the basis of sex.
This law only applies where men and women are performing work requiring similar skills, effort and responsibility for the same employer and under similar working conditions. Jobs, however, do not have to be identical, only substantially similar. The job title is not a determinative factor; job content is the key.
Employers may not reduce the wages of one sex in order to equalize pay between women and men.
Violations can occur if a different wage is paid to a person of the opposite sex who worked in the same job either before or after the claimant did.
Labor union provisions may also result in violations of the Act by the employer.
- If salary differences are based on criteria other than sex, or any of the other protected classifications, the employer will not be in violation of the Act.
- Examples of other criteria:
- Quality or quantity of work
- Skill - measured by the skills required for the job, not the skills individual employees might have. Skill is measured by several factors, including:
- Effort - the amount of mental or physical exertion required to perform the job.
- Responsibility - the degree of accountability required in performing the job. Minor differences, such as who locks up the building at the end of the day, alone are not sufficient to justify a pay differential.
- Working Conditions - includes two factors:
- Physical surroundings, such as temperature, fumes and ventilation.
- Hazards, such as chemical waste, biohazards, etc.
- Establishment - a distinct physical place of business rather than an entire business or an enterprise consisting of several businesses.
- In some circumstances, several places of business will be treated as one for Equal Pay Act purposes.
- Businesses with a central administrative unit in charge of hiring, setting compensation and assigning work locations may have all locations considered one unit for Equal Pay Act purposes.
Filing Requirements and Limitations:
- An Equal Pay Act claim must first be pre-filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the potentially unlawful action or within 300 days of the unlawful action if your state is a referral jurisdiction state. Tennessee is a referral jurisdiction state. The deadline will not be extended because of internal investigation of the incident within the company.
- A court action must be filed within 90 days of the receipt of a right-to-sue letter from the proper authority.
- The Equal Pay Act only covers businesses with 20 or more employees. State laws may have different requirements.
Remedies and Damages:
- Back Pay
- This is the most common form of relief.
- It includes wages, salary, and fringe benefits the claimant would have received during the period of discrimination from the date of termination/failure to promote to the date of trial.
- You have a duty to mitigate these damages by taking reasonable efforts to find comparable employment after you have been terminated.
- Compensatory Damages
- Awarded for future loss, emotional distress, pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Individual claim caps are placed on this type of damages based on the size of the employer.
- In a class action, each individual claimant may be awarded the maximum amount allowed by the cap.
- Attorney's Fees
- The court may choose to award attorney's fees to the prevailing, or winning, party.
- Punitive Damages
- This type of damages is limited to cases in which the employer's discrimination is intentional and was done with malice or reckless indifference to the individual's rights.
- Claim caps also apply to these awards, but in class actions the individual claimants may receive the maximum amount allowed under the law.
- Injunctive Relief
- Common examples of injunctive relief include reinstating a terminated employee or ordering the employer to prevent future discrimination.