The federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) has been on the books since 1963. It says men and women are supposed to receive equal pay when they work in substantially equal jobs in the same establishment.
Over a half-century later, however, there's still a big gap between how much men and women are paid.
How big is this gap in Texas and what legal rights do women have under the EPA to challenge unequal pay? In this post, we'll use a Q & A format to address this question.
What is the national average on the gender pay gap?
In every state in the country, women's earnings lag behind men's. According to research by the National Women's Law Center, women who work full time make only about 80 percent of what men make.
But the gap is much bigger in some states than others. In New York, the gap is smallest, with women making an average of 89 cents for every dollar men make. The gap is widest in Utah and Louisiana, where women make only 70 percent as much as men.
Where does Texas rank?
Texas is in the middle of the national rankings, at number 26 out of 51. (There are 51 spots because the District of Columbia is included.) Women in Texas make 70 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Is the gap larger for women of color?
Yes. Nationally, black women make only 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. For Latinas, it's 54 cents and for Native American women 59 cents.
What does the Equal Pay Act require?
The Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay men and women equally when they do "equal work in the same establishment."
An "establishment" is not the same as a company or enterprise. It refers to a place of business or to a distinct work unit that may include multiple locations.
Work is considered "substantially equal" based on factors that include skill, amount of effort, degree of responsibility and working conditions.
Are pay differentials between men and women ever allowed?
The Equal Pay Act allows men and women to receive different pay based on factors other than gender. This could include seniority, production or merit. But under the EPA, it is the employer's obligation to prove those factors accounted for the pay gap.