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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. To be successful in an EPA claim, employees must prove they performed equal work in positions requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that the jobs were performed under similar working conditions.

If an employee can show that the violation was “willful,” she has up to three years to sue after the last allegedly discriminatory paycheck; only two years if it’s not willful.

Heads up: Courts will probably call any obvious wage disparity a “willful” violation.

Recent case: After two female salespeople, Monica Whipple and Lesley Branham, were fired, they both filed EPA lawsuits. They discovered a pay 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, the employer tried to have the lawsuit tossed out based on the statute of limitations for EPA cases.

Result: The court gave the women the benefit of the three-year limitation, reasoning that if the allegation was true, 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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