You generally like your job because it is in your area of expertise. However, you often feel like you don’t earn as much as you should. When you eventually confirm that suspicion by discovering what others in your department make, you may start to question why the company doesn’t pay you the same as they do your coworkers.
Sometimes, the truth is that you are not in the same position as your coworkers. You have a different title and a different education which commands a different amount of compensation. Other times, you have a co-worker with roughly the same educational background and experience who inexplicably makes more than you do.
If the only difference between you and higher-earning teammates is your sex, does that mean your employer has violated your equal pay rights?
Protected characteristics should not factor into employment decisions
There are numerous personal characteristics that have protection under federal law for employment purposes. Your sex is one of them. Whether you are a man or a woman should not matter when it comes to whether or not you can do a job and how much your employer pays you for that work.
Unfortunately, there has historically been a significant discrepancy between what companies pay men for work and what they pay women for the exact same job responsibilities. Other factors, including age and race, may exacerbate the wage discrepancy and make it even worse for some employees.
Women who have the same job title, the same degree and the same experience as their male counterparts should receive the same wages. Although companies may try to blame an employee’s higher wages from a past job or better negotiating skills, the company should adjust its employment practices to prevent systemic discrimination against people with certain characteristics.
Why bringing a wage claim matters
Younger workers, in particular, seem more willing than ever to move on to a new place of employment if their current job doesn’t offer competitive pay and a healthy work environment. Many women who suddenly learn about a pay gap at their job might simply start looking for a better-paying job elsewhere using what they know of their coworkers’ wages to guide their negotiations. However, if you don’t push back against your current employer’s policies, then nothing will change.
Bringing an equal pay claim against an employer that compensates you less than your male coworkers could not only award you some of those wages you might have earned but could also prompt changes at the company that will benefit other women in the future.