Know the laws and what you can do to avoid pay discrimination headaches…or worse.
Earlier this month, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic published a message about equal pay and highlighted some significant recent legal cases. She started by observing, “What we know at the EEOC is that pay discrimination, the concept of ‘equal pay for equal work’ enshrined in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, is real. We see and bring the cases every year.” She noted that her agency garnered approximately $4.1 million in litigation for discrimination victims whose claims involved equal pay violations. Clearly, HR professionals need to stay on top of these issues so that they can attract and keep talent and avoid the expenses and headaches related to unfair wage claims.
Lipnic highlighted some recent cases of significance:
- A university employer paid $2.6 million to several professors after the EEOC determined that the school was paying female tenured professors less than male colleagues with comparable skills and experience who were performing the same or substantially similar work.
- A county government employer had to put out nearly $150,000 for paying a female engineer at the county’s Department of Environment lower wages than male colleagues performing equal work. Besides paying damages, the county agreed to raise the woman’s pay to an equitable level.
- Another county government employer paid $115,000 to a female physician at a county clinic after it was discovered that the locality’s Public Health Department had hired a male physician at a starting salary $34,000 higher than the woman—despite identical duties.
“We see too many examples of cases like these,” Lipnic said, adding, “In addition, the consequences of harassment at work can have a devastating impact on compensation for women, resulting in lost employment opportunities, adverse actions, and ultimately lost pay for time taken to avoid or recover from it.”
In working to ensure pay equity in your organization, consider a few steps:
Focus on facts. To support your policies regarding pay, rely on the facts about wage gaps and pay equity. Know what constitutes acceptable wages/salaries for the jobs in your organization and work to ensure equal pay for equal work. Know what your state laws say.
Look beyond wages. It may seem that the easiest way to equalize pay is to increase salaries/wages where there are disparities. However, you also need to look at benefits as well. If your organization isn’t able to enact sweeping, significant changes, consider starting with a payroll distribution plan scaled to fit your specific workforce.
Have clear policies regarding pay equity. Have clear and transparent policies that are communicated to and understood by all employees. Make sure that managers understand the policies, as well as the implications of non-compliance with them.
Conduct regular policy reviews. Make sure that your policies stay up-to-date with any changes to federal and state laws and regulations. Communicate these changes and their implications to all employees. Additionally, schedule regular reviews/audits of wage equity.