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It’s legit: Use differences in location and responsibilities to justify variable pay scales

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in Compensation and Benefits

Here’s something to consider when setting pay rates for jobs in different locations and with slightly different responsibilities: Under the Equal Pay Act, employers can set different salaries based on geographically distinct job locations.

In other words, you aren’t required to pay a manager in New York City the same as one in a lower-cost locale, even if the New York manager is male and the manager in the other location is female. Plus, any differences in responsibilities—likely, given different locations—can be used to help justify the difference.

Of course, you can’t reverse the sexes and decide to pay a woman assigned to New York less than a man working in Small Town USA.

Recent case: Jeanette Renstrom worked on and off for Nash Finch as a grocery buyer from 1979 until 2009, when she retired.

That’s when she sued, alleging pay discrimination. She claimed two male grocery buyers in other locations were paid more than she had earned.

Nash Finch argued that the positions weren’t equal and the locations required different compensation plans.

As an example, it explained that the men had much larger territories to manage and had to do far more work than Renstrom did.

That was enough for the court to toss out the case. (Renstrom v. Nash Finch, No. 09-CV-1823, DC MN, 2011)

Final note: Remember, employees can challenge pay decisions years after the fact, based on the impact on their current paychecks.

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