Thesis: Labor Discrimination Equal Pay Act Law and Reality

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Labor Discrimination - Equal Pay Act - Law and Reality

The objective of this work is to examine law and regulations relating to labor discrimination, the equal pay act and the reality of labor discrimination in today's workforce.

DEFINITION of LABOR MARKET DISCRIMINATION

The work of Becker (1957) defines 'Labor Market Discrimination' by stating that Labor Market Discrimination "...may be in the form of differences in wage rates for workers who are equally productive but who are different in terms of their personal characteristics including race, age, religion, nationality or education. Labor market discrimination also comes in the form of job exclusion upon the basis of social class, union membership or political beliefs. (Becker, 1957)

BACKGROUND to the STUDY

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on the individual's gender of the payment of wages. The EPA was enacted by Congress as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, to rectify the conditions created by the inequities in pay existing based on gender and specifically designed to rectify the disparity in the wages paid to women. The enactment of the Equal Pay Act resulted in Congress making the findings as followings in relation to gender-based wage differentials:

depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency;

prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources;

tends to cause labor disputes, thereby burdening, affecting, and obstructing commerce;

burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce; and Construes an unfair method of competition. (AAUW, 2008)

The Equal Pay Act specifically states as follows:

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, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee." (AAUW, 2008)

The difference between the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, is that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, which was one year after the passing of the Equal Pay Act. Title VII states:

It shall be unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate "against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." (42 U.S.C. 2000e; as cited by the AAUW, 2008)

Therefore, while the Equal Pay Act places a prohibition on discrimination of wages based on gender, Title VII prohibits all discrimination relating to employment which is inclusive of the hiring, termination and promotion as well as the wages of the individual upon the basis of race, religion, color or national origin and additionally prohibits it upon the basis of the gender of the individual. Individuals who have experiences gender-based pay inequity have the choice of filing under Title VII or the EPA however, it might be more advantageous to file under the EPA for the following reasons:

The individual can file a lawsuit under the EPA without first filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under Title VII, the individual must file a complaint with the EEOC and the EEOC must issue you a "Right to Sue" letter before the individual can file a lawsuit in federal court.

The EPA has a longer statute of limitations than Title VII. EPA wage discrimination claims must be brought within two years of the first act of discrimination, however the statute of limitations is extended to three years if the employer's EPA violation is willful/intentional.

If the individual works for an employer with fewer than 15 employees, then that individual falls outside of Title VII's requirements but you can still file under the EPA.

Under the EPA, the individual can collect liquidated damages - double back pay can be awarded as liquidated damages unless the employer can show that wage discrimination was in good faith. (AAUW, 2008)

There are stated however, to be disadvantages to filing under the EPA including those as follows:

Under the EPA the individual cannot collect punitive damages including pain and suffering;

Unlike the EPA, Title VII does not require that the individual's job be substantially equal to that of a higher paid individual of the opposite sex and neither does it require that the individual work in the same establishment. (AAUW, 2008)

Generally, the individual will files claims under the Equal Protection Act and Title VII for the purpose of preserving their claim under both laws of sex discrimination. Under the Equal Pay Act the individual must show that a male and female working in the same place and performing equal jobs are in receipt of unequal pay. The burden is on the employee or the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case and this requires that the employee show:

same establishment; unequal pay; on the basis of sex; and equal work. (AAUW, 2008)

While the jobs do not have to be "identical, they must just be substantially equal." (AAUW, 2008) for the purpose of the Equal Pay Act two jobs are equal "when both require equal levels of skills, effort and responsibility and are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment." (AAUW, 2008)

Skill - Skills is stated to be "measured by factors such as the experience, ability, education, and training required to perform the job. The key issue is what skills are required for the job, not what skills the individual employees may have." (AAUW, 2008)

Effort - Means the "...amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job." (AAUW, 2008)

Responsibility - Relates to the "...degree of accountability required in performing the job." (AAUW, 2008)

Working Conditions - These are stated to encompass the factors of: (1) physical surroundings like temperature, fumes, and ventilation, and (2) hazards. (AAUW, 2008)

Establishment - This relates to the "...prohibition against compensation discrimination under the EPA applies only to jobs within any establishment. An establishment is a distinct physical place of business rather than an entire business or enterprise consisting of several places of business. However, in some circumstances, physically separate places of business should be treated as one establishment." (AAUW, 2008)

Upon having established the prima facie case the burden "shifts to the employer/defendant, who can justify the pay differential under one (or more) affirmative defenses" (AAUW, 2008) including those as follows:

seniority systems; merit systems; systems which measure earnings by quantity or quality of production; and differential based on any factor other than sex. (AAUW, 2008)

INTRODUCTION

On January 9, 2009 it was reported by Jim Abrams in the work entitled: "House Approves Bill to Fight Wage Discrimination" that the "House Democrats...energized by the prospects of a pro-labor president...marked the first week of the new Congress...by pushing through two bills to help workers, particularly women, who are victims of discrimination." Abrams relates that this act would effectively reverse the 2007 Supreme Court decision concerning the allotted time in which a worker is allowed to file a wage discrimination previously limited to 180 days of the "first decision to pay that worker less, even if the person was unaware of the pay disparity." (2009)

The previous decision arose from a case in which Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant located in Gadsden Alabama sued the company over pay discrimination "when she learned, shortly before retiring after a 19-year career there, that she earned less than any male supervisor. A jury ruled in her favor, but the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, threw out her complaint, saying she had failed to sue within the 180-day deadline after a discriminatory pay decision was made." (Abrams, 2009)

Ms. Ledbetter stated that this ruling "just doesn't make sense in the real world. In a lot of places you could get fired for asking your co-workers how much they are making." (Abrams, 2009) the 'Paycheck Fairness Act' passed on January 9, 2009 effectively "puts gender-based discrimination on an equal footing with other forms of discrimination in seeking compensatory and punitive damages. It also puts the burden on employers to prove that any disparities in wages are job-related and not sex-based, and bars employers from retaliating against workers who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers." (Abrams, 2009)

I. EXAMINATION of EQUAL PAY

In June 2007, Kay Steiger reported in the work entitled:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Labor Discrimination Equal Pay Act Law and Reality.  (2009, January 12).  Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/labor-discrimination-equal-pay-act/761889

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