Thesis: Equal Pay Act (EPA) No Employer

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Equal Pay Act (EPA)

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility..."

Equal Pay Act of 1963 (Pub. L. 88-38)

The right of employees to be free from discrimination in their compensation is protected under several federal laws, including the following enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): the Equal Pay Act of 1963,

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (EEOC, n.d.)

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) (P.L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56, 59) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of gender by compensating workers differently for jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility. In adopting the EPA, an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Congress hoped to eliminate wage differentials because they were thought to depress wages and the standard of living, prevent maximum utilization of available labor resources, lead to labor disputes, and constitute an unfair method of competition. Congress also strove to eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the value of work performed by women. (Equal Pay Act of 1963, n.d.)

Background (Wage Gap)

Because of the large number of American women taking jobs in the war industries during World War II, the National War Labor Board urged employers in 1942 to voluntarily make "adjustments which equalize wage or salary rates paid to females with the rates paid to males for comparable quality and quantity of work on the same or similar operations." (Brunner, n.d.)

Not only did employers fail to heed this "voluntary" request, but at the war's end most women were pushed out of their new jobs to make room for returning veterans.

Until the early 1960s, newspapers published separate job listings for men and women. Jobs were categorized according to sex, with the higher level jobs listed almost exclusively under "Help Wanted -- Male." In some cases the ads ran identical jobs under male and female listings -- but with separate pay scales. Separate, of course, meant unequal: between 1950 and 1960, women with full time jobs earned on average between 59-64 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in the same job. (Equal Pay Act of 1963, n.d.)

Success finally came on February 14, 1963, when, in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz recommended enactment of "equal pay" legislation and submitted a draft bill. In its deliberations over the act, however, Congress purposely rejected the concept of "equal pay for comparable work" promoted by some advocates of this law, opting instead to adopt an "equal pay for equal work" formula. (Equal Pay Act of 1963, n.d.)

Equal work" means jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and which workers perform under similar working conditions.

It wasn't until the passage of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 (effective June 11, 1964) that it became illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job strictly on the basis of their sex. Demonstrable differences in seniority, merit, the quality or quantity of work, or other considerations might merit different pay, but gender could no longer be viewed as a drawback on one's resume. (Brunner, n.d.)

It is often forgotten that for the first nine years of the EPA, the requirement of equal pay for equal work did not extend to persons employed in an executive, administrative or professional capacity, or as an outside salesman. Therefore, the EPA exempted white collar women from the protection of equal pay for equal work. In 1972, Congress enacted the Educational Amendment of 1972, which amended the FLSA to expand the coverage of the EPA to these employees, by excluding the EPA from the professional workers exemption of the FLSA.

Details of the Equal Pay Act

Section One of the EPA provided that those employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Acts (FLSA) must provide equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, and Section Two of the bill amends the FLSA to state that wage differentials based solely on the gender of the employee are an unfair labor standard. Section Three lists special circumstances and exemptions to the act. Section Four, among other things, gives employers bound by collective bargaining agreements a one-year moratorium on enforcement, or until the collective bargaining agreement expired, whichever came first, before compliance was required. (Equal Pay Act of 1963, n.d.)

We have already discussed the basic idea that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment. There are actually five parts of that statement that are best clarified with more definition. (EEOC, n.d.)

Skill equates to Ability, Experience, Education, and Training - the key issue is what skills are required for the job, not what skills the individual employees may have. In other words, one employee may have far more education or experience, but if those two skills are not relevant to the job, then the two employees are considered equal. (EEOC, n.d.)

Effort equals the amount of physical or mental effort required to do the job. If a job requires more physical or mental effort than similar jobs, such as heavy lifting, then the person doing that job, whether man or woman, might be entitled to more compensation than the worker down the line who doesn't have to do the heavy lifting.

Responsibility is the amount of answerability a person has in performing a task. If there are a dozen secretaries and one of them has to lock up the safe at night and ensure confidential information is stored properly, that one secretary may be due more compensation than the rest.

Working Conditions encompasses physical surroundings and hazards. If either of these is significantly different or more dangerous than similar workers are exposed to, those conditions may warrant more pay.

Establishment means that unequal compensation can only be prohibited within the same business premises. This does not include a "business" which has many locations. It does include distinct, physical place of business. There are exceptions to this rule. (EEOC, n.d.)

Some may not realize that pay differentials are permitted when they are based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or a factor other than sex. However, these are known as "affirmative defenses" and it is the employer's burden to prove that they apply. (EEOC, n.d.)

It is important to note that the EPA does not contain any intent requirement within the statutory language. Liability under the EPA is established by meeting the three elements of the case, regardless of the intention of the employer. As such, the EPA imposes strict liability on employers who engage in wage discrimination based on gender. (Absoluteastronomy.com, n.d.)

Intent

Congress stated that its intent in enacting the Equal Pay Act was to establish a "broad charter of women's rights," designed to remedy a "serious and endemic" problem of sex discrimination in the workplace. (Novelguide.com, n.d.)

In adopting the EPA, Congress hoped to eliminate wage differentials because they were thought to depress wages and the standard of living, prevent maximum utilization of available labor resources, lead to labor disputes, and constitute an unfair method of competition. Congress also strove to eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the value of work performed by women.

The EPA was "the first step towards an adjustment of balance in pay for women." As a part of the FLSA, the EPA was subject to the scope and exceptions of covered employees and employers contained within that act. On the floor of the House of Representatives, many Representatives voiced their concern that the EPA should act as the starting point for establishing pay parity for women. Subsequent to the enactment of the EPA, congress undertook two actions which broadened the scope of federal protection against wage discrimination on the basis of sex.

Absoluteastronomy.com, n.d.)

Impact -- Economic and Other

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women's salaries vis-a-vis men's have risen dramatically since the EPA's enactment, from 62% of men's earnings in 1970 to 80% in 2004. Nonetheless, the EPA's equal pay for equal work goals have not been achieved, as demonstrated by the BLS data and Congressional findings within the text of the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act. (EEOC, n.d.)

Senator Hillary Clinton first introduced the "Paycheck Fairness Act" on April 20, 2005, which, among other provisions, proposes to amend the EPA's fourth affirmative defense to permit only bona fide factors other than sex that are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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