Equal Pay Act

All Employees Must Be Paid Fairly

For the last 60 years, it has been the law that men and women must receive the same compensation for doing the same work. Nevertheless, to this day significant differences between men's and women's salaries exist—in 2020, women made 84 cents for every dollar a man earned. These disparities are visible across all types of employment, even very exclusive professions. One report found that female surgeons only earned 70 percent of what male surgeons earned, and another concluded that female attorneys made 85 cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues.

Today, pay discrimination is prohibited by the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which mandates that men and women who have substantially similar jobs must receive the same pay. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also prohibits any sort of pay discrimination based on sex. Additionally, the Texas Labor Code explicitly forbids discrimination (including pay discrimination) against female employees for public sector employers and for private employers with 15 or more employees. Gender-based pay discrimination does not only affect women. A man who is paid less than a woman with a substantially similar job is also able to bring a claim for unequal pay.

When is Pay Unequal?

Since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, employers have been required to pay men and women the same amount for performing similar jobs. Jobs are considered to be similar if they largely require the same skills, call for comparable amounts of mental and physical effort, face similar physical conditions or hazards, or require similar degrees of responsibility. The only exceptions to the Equal Pay Act come when employees' compensation is governed by defined criteria that have nothing to do with sex, such as merit, seniority, quantity or quality of work produced, or some other factor not based on sex. Disparities in compensation can extend to more than just base wages: compensation includes bonuses, overtime pay, holiday pay, and access to benefits such as stock options, vacation time, and profit-sharing plans. If you are paid less than a coworker who does the same type of work, or must use your own car when other employees with similar responsibilities have access to company cars, you may have a claim for unequal pay. You do not need to worry about affecting your coworker's wages by bringing a claim—employers are not allowed to lower the wages of higher-paid employees in order to make wages equal.

It is also important to note that gender is not the only source of pay discrimination. Unequal pay because of other factors, such as race, national origin, religion, or age, is also illegal. Our Austin pay discrimination lawyers will help you make as strong a case as possible, regardless of what causes the discrepancy in pay.

When Can You Make a Claim?

Historically, the statute of limitations for unequal pay claims under Title VII was strict, and required workers to make a claim within 180 days of their first unequal paycheck. The Equal Pay Act gave employees 2 years to bring a claim (3 if the violation was willful), but this was also tied to the date of the first paycheck. Employees who did not learn quickly that they were not receiving equal pay often found themselves unable to make claims because it had been too long since the disparity started. This changed in 2009, with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Under the new Act, the various statutes of limitations governing equal pay lawsuits reset with each new unequal paycheck, rather than expiring either 180 days or 2-3 years after the first paycheck received. Today, it is possible to make a claim for unequal pay as soon as you learn of the disparity, even if you have been receiving unequal compensation for years.

Depending on the nature of your case and the applicable laws, you may have anywhere from 180 to 300 days to bring a claim for unequal pay. Since the process can be difficult and the deadlines can be strict, we strongly advise that you contact one of Wiley Associates, P.C.'s Austin pay discrimination lawyers as soon as possible if you have been a victim of such discrimination. A qualified attorney can help you make your case as strong as possible in front of the EEOC or the TWC. If you have not been receiving equal pay, or believe you have a case, you can contact us by filling out our intake form or calling our office at (512) 271-5527.

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