The Equal Pay Act and Gender Discrimination
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from paying unequal pay to women for equal work. The Act prohibits discrimination with respect to wages, which includes base salary, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and other fringe benefits. The Act does not require that a female employee show that the pay disparity was intentional or based on her gender; she need only show that there is a pay disparity, i.e. that a male employee at the same company is paid a higher “wage” for performing substantially equal work.
Although the Equal Pay Act has been on the books for over forty years, recent studies have shown that women continue to be paid less than men for performing the same work. According to a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Labor, women make 78% of men’s wages across the board. Most surprising, the wage disparity is greatest among the most highly educated groups.
Employers have developed fairly standard arguments to evade liability. For example, employers routinely try to distinguish the work performed by a female employee and her male counterparts by arguing that the male employees’ jobs require more skill. Employers also try to identify something in the male employee’s background or resume that distinguishes him from the female employee in order to justify his higher wage