Recognize you are not alone
If you are a woman and you are being paid less than men that are doing the same work, you are not alone. Even though the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have prohibited pay discrimination for more than 50 years, gender pay disparities persist. The gap between men and women exists in every state, every occupation, and every educational level. Women who work full time year round are paid, on average, 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Minnesota women fare slightly better at 84%. If you are a woman of color, the gap is even wider: 61% for African American women, 58% for Native women, and 53% for Latinas.
Talk you your manager, preferably with guidance from a lawyer
Tell your manager or your HR department that you believe you are being paid less than a male coworker. Be explicit that you believe the pay difference is based on gender. You cannot be penalized for pointing out what you believe to be discrimination—even if you are wrong and there is another explanation. Remember, in order to have legal protection against retaliation, you have to say the pay differential is because you are a woman. An arbitrary pay system that is unfair to everybody is not illegal, and complaints about such a system are not protected. An experienced Minnesota employment discrimination law firm like Schaefer Halleen can guide you through efforts to change your employer’s discriminatory practices.
Contact the EEOC and an experienced lawyer
Sometimes you need outside help to remedy pay discrimination. The first step may be filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC has made pay equity a priority in its current strategic plan, and has won recent settlements on behalf of low and high wage employees. The EEOC is a powerful ally, but having your own gender discrimination lawyer looking out for you is very important. Pay discrimination cases are sometimes tough to prove because employers come up with all kinds of subjective explanations for why one employee is paid less than another. The Minneapolis law firm of Schaefer Halleen is expert at pulling together proof of gender based wage disparity through statistical and other types of evidence.
Support Changes to the Law
The law needs to be updated. In January 2019, Democrats in the U.S. Congress reintroduced the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which was first introduced in 1997. The Act would end the pay secrecy that drives much of the inequity in pay. It would make it illegal to retaliate against employees for discussing salaries with colleagues and prohibit requiring salary history during the interview and hiring process. The changes would shift the burden to employers to prove that disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons. The Act would finally give teeth to the Equal Pay Act.
Women do the work, they deserve the pay.