Over the last several decades, legislative efforts have been made to address income inequality. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against women in terms of employment, such as failing to hire or promote women on the basis of their sex. While this provision has helped eliminate sex discrimination, it does not specifically address wage discrimination.
In 2009, in order to help address this inequality, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which extended the amount of time women within which women could sue for gender-based pay discrimination. Furthermore, the Equal Pay Act, enacted in 1963, prohibits employers from paying men more than women who perform equal work. However, the Act has been interpreted narrowly and women who challenge their pay must identify a male in the exact same job with the exact same background for comparison. Often such an identical match doesn’t exist, making it difficult to contest perceived pay inequities. Additionally, sex discrimination concerning wages is often subtle, making it difficult to prove the intentional discrimination required by some discrimination laws.
Further complicating matters, women are often unaware they are making less than their male counterparts. Salary discussions may be taboo, making it nearly impossible to determine where you stand in terms of pay as compared to others in your workplace. If you don’t know you’re making less, you are far less likely to challenge your compensation. Thus, despite some legislative and cultural efforts at improving pay inequities, significant disparities still exist, with women only earning 80 cents for every dollar men make.
In order to help eliminate the gap, some states and legislatures are looking into prohibiting employers from asking about salary history when determining pay, banning employer retaliation against employees who discuss wage/salaries with co-workers, and improving pay transparency. Advocacy groups are also advising revisions to Title VII and the Equal Pay Act to better address the wage disparities. Hopefully, progress will continue to be made, narrowing the earning’s gap and eliminating the prevalence of wage discrimination.
In the meantime, if you suspect you have faced wage discrimination or any other type of gender-based employment discrimination, please contact the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal LLP for an immediate case evaluation.