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Check your pay rates! Obvious male/female disparity is probably ‘willful’ discrimination

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) makes it illegal to base unequal pay on gender.

Employees who allege violations of the EPA have to show that their employer paid different wages to employees of the opposite sex, that the employees performed equal work in positions requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility, and the jobs were performed under similar working conditions.

Employees have up to three years to sue after the last allegedly discriminatory paycheck if their employer’s violation was “willful,” and two years if it was not. Unfortunately, any obvious wage disparity is probably willful.

Recent case: Monica Whipple and Lesley Branham were both hired as salespeople. When their employer, ChemStation, fired them, they sued, alleging among other things that they had been paid less than male salespeople.

They apparently discovered the discrepancy while looking over commission reports and comparing their compensation with that of a male colleague’s. They said he earned more for each sale.

Because it had been more than two years since they were terminated, ChemStation tried to have the lawsuit tossed out based on the statute of limitations for EPA cases.

However, the court said the women got the benefit of the three-year limitation. It reasoned that if their allegation that males made more per sale was true, that would be an indication that the company acted with reckless disregard for the women’s rights to equal pay. (Whipple v. Favorite, et al., No. H-07-3923, SD TX, 2009)

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