For far too long the prevailing theory behind paying women less than men was that men had wives and children at home for whom they were the sole financial support. This provided employers with a rationalization for paying women less by assuming they were simply making "extra" money and not solely responsible for the support of the family.
Fortunately, a plethora of legislation beginning in 1963 changed all that. With the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, employers could no longer substantiate paying women less for the same amount of work due to antiquated notions about the American family.
What the Equal Pay Act says about your paycheck
The fact that your employer identifies your position with one title and a man's position with another has no effect on your right to equal pay. What matters is that the composition of your positions is substantially equal. The factors that indicate this equality include the following:
- Establishment: You and the other party must work in the same, distinct physical place. Even if you are at separate sites, as long as they fit into a distinct physical place, the law considers it the same establishment.
- Responsibility: Your position must involve the same level of accountability as others.
- Skill: This factor represents the education, experience, training and ability needed to carry out the duties of your job.
- Working conditions: This includes the hazards and physical conditions you face while on-the-job.
- Effort: This requirement encompasses the amount of mental or physical exertion you expend to carry out your job duties.
If your job meets these conditions, but your pay is less than a male employee's, you may be the victim of pay discrimination. Of course, variables such as merit, seniority and quality or quantity of production may affect a particular person's rate of pay. The point is that your gender cannot prevent you from earning the same wage when all factors are considered equal.
What you can do about it
If you somehow discover that a male employee with whom you are on equal footing makes more than you do, you have the right to question why. If you do not receive either a satisfactory answer or an adjustment in pay, you may need to go outside of your company for help. A thorough review of your situation could reveal that you have a legally actionable claim.