Equal Pay Act Lawsuits for Wage Discrimination
Last Updated on June 18, 2020
Attorneys working with ClassAction.org are no longer investigating this matter. The information here is for reference only. A list of open investigations and lawsuits can be viewed here.
- June 18, 2020 – Investigation Closed
- Thank you to everyone who contacted us in regard to this investigation. At this point, attorneys working with ClassAction.org are no longer reviewing claims on behalf of those who felt they were paid unfairly due to their sex. If you are interested in taking legal action or have questions about your rights, please contact an attorney in your area. For our open list of investigations, visit this page. The information below is for reference only.
At A Glance
- This Alert Affects:
- Women who are performing the same work as their male counterparts, but are getting paid less.
- What's Going On?
- Despite federal laws granting equal pay for equal work, several class action lawsuits have been filed recently on behalf of female employees who say they were paid less because of their gender.
- Which Industries Are Most Affected?
- Agriculture; Installation, Maintenance and Repair; Industrial Work; Construction; Office Management; Sales; Transportation; Business and Financial Operations; Natural and Social Sciences; Security and Protective Services; Education; Computer and Information Technology
If you feel you’re performing the same work as your male counterparts but are getting paid less, you may be able to take legal action.
Despite strict requirements from the decades-old Equal Pay Act (EPA), some companies are still refusing to pay their female employees as much as their male counterparts – and they’re getting called out for it.
Equal Pay Act Lawsuits on the Rise
Over the past several years, a number of class action lawsuits have been filed by women who say they’re getting paid less for performing the same work as their male counterparts – and these lawsuits show no sign of slowing down.
Some recent settlements include:
Bayer Corp. paid out an undisclosed amount to settle a $100 million sex discrimination lawsuit in 2015.
In 2011, Dollar General paid $19 million to settle claims that it paid female store managers less than men with the same job.
In 2016, Farmers Insurance reached a $4.1 million settlement with female attorneys who were allegedly making less than their male counterparts.
Merck & Co. settled a $250 million gender bias lawsuit with its female sales representatives back in April 2016.
What Do I Have to Prove in a Wage Discrimination Lawsuit?
To have a successful claim under the Equal Pay Act, you will have to prove that you are receiving less than your male counterparts even though your positions require equal levels of:
Skill: This factor takes into account education, training, ability and experience – and how they apply to the job at hand. For instance, assume there are two medical assistant positions available at a 24-hour care clinic. Of the two people who get hired, one has a degree in accounting. Because such a degree is not necessary for the job, these two positions would be considered equal under the EPA and would warrant equal pay so long as the other factors were met.
Effort: This factor takes into account mental and physical exertion. Assume two cashiers at a wholesale warehouse club are responsible for checking customers out. One of the cashiers, however, is responsible for lifting all heavy items onto the conveyor belt and placing them in the customer’s cart. This employee’s job requires more physical exertion and may warrant extra pay.
Responsibility: This factor takes into account the level of accountability required of the job. Assume a local convenience store has two managers. One of the managers is required to lock up the store at night and check the cashiers’ tills at the end of their shifts. This person has more responsibility than the other manager and, therefore, may earn more. On the other hand, a simple duty, such as turning off the store sign, is not a big enough responsibility to justify a difference in pay.
For two jobs to be considered equal, the employees must also be exposed to the same working conditions. This factor takes into account physical surroundings, as well as exposure to fumes, chemicals and other workplace hazards.
When Can a Male Counterpart Earn More Than Me?
Male and female employees who are performing equal work are entitled to equal pay. There are exceptions, however. For instance, it’s legal for your company to pay your male counterpart more if it has a seniority system that increases pay based on how long you’ve worked there. Similarly, if the company has a merit system or a system that grants additional pay based on the quantity or quality of work performed, it may be legal for your male counterparts to earn more than you.
What Damages Can I Collect?
If your wage discrimination lawsuit is successful, you may be entitled to:
A raise so that you’re being paid just as much as your male counterparts
Two to three years of back pay (the difference in what you earned and what you should have been paid)
Liquidated damages (an amount awarded that’s equal to the amount of back pay you receive)
Additionally, if your case is successful, your employer may also be required to raise the wages of all other female employees in your position and award them back pay.
Can I Get Fired?
Employers are prohibited by federal law from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the EPA or any other employment law. If your employer takes retaliatory action against you, you may be entitled to additional damages in your wage discrimination case.
Equal Pay Act: What Are My Rights Under the Law?
Under the EPA, men and women in the same workplace must receive equal pay for equal work. Their jobs don’t have to be identical – just substantially equal. It’s important to note that job “content” – not titles – determine whether two jobs are equal.
The EPA says that not only must salary or hourly wages be equal between men and women performing the same work, they must also be paid equally all other forms of compensation, including:
- Stock options
- Life insurance
- Profit sharing
- Vacation/holiday pay
- Gas allowances
- Travel expense reimbursement
It’s also important to note that an employer cannot enforce a pay policy that has an adverse effect on a certain gender. For instance, a company that has a policy that says heads of households (that is, people married with children who are the primary financial contributors) are entitled to higher wages may get in trouble with the law as this policy may have a disparate impact on female employees.
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