What’s all the discussion about the Equal Pay Act?

Equal pay in the workplace between genders has been a hot topic among media outlets—particularly the Equal Pay Act. The Act has stirred public curiosity about the law, what it is and why it’s important.

Over the past several years, equal pay in the workplace between genders has been a hot topic media outlets all across the nation have profiled-particularly provisions of the Equal Pay Act. The law has recently made headlines as the public awaited a vote in the U.S. Senate on a bill, known as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make changes to the Act.

The coverage of the Act and equal pay in the employment arena has stirred public curiosity about the law, what it is, and why it's important.

Understanding the Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act, first passed in 1963, made it illegal for employers to pay women less than men who were performing the same job of equal skill, effort, and responsibility. It was introduced after data showed that women at the time the law was enacted were making 59 cents for every dollar a male counterpart earned for the same job.

Since the law was passed over 50 years ago, various amendments to the EPA have been introduced in Congress in order to afford additional protections for victims of wage discrimination; some amendments passed, some didn't.

The most recent amendment to the EPA was introduced in the U.S. Senate on April 1, 2014. It is known as the Paycheck Fairness Act, one of many versions introduced throughout recent years.

The Paycheck Fairness Act

The Paycheck Fairness Act is a law that would change the EPA to "provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes."

The amendment would:

  • Authorize transparency of wages among men and women in the same position
  • Mandate that employers rather than employees prove that the unequal pay for a position is not gender related but due to a legitimate business reason
  • Bar employers from retaliating against employees who address concerns about unequal pay

Various other provisions are also included in the latest PFA.

The future of the Equal Pay Act

The Senate voted on the EPA on April 9, 2014, but it failed to receive enough votes to pass and move to the House. It remains to be seen what future action Congress will take on the issue or whether there will be another version of the Paycheck Fairness Act introduced in future sessions of Congress.

According to reports provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, women today still only make 81 cents for every dollar a man with the same position earns. And, the gap is even wider for women of African-American or Hispanic descent.

Legal recourse for workplace discrimination

Those who feel that they have been the victim of wage discrimination or suffered any other discrimination in the workplace are encouraged to consult with an employment law attorney. A lawyer knowledgeable in this intricate area of law can assess the situation and offer advice on potential legal recourse available.

Keywords: Equal pay, gender discrimination