The Equal Pay Act (EPA) says that men and women who perform jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility should be paid the same. But that doesn’t mean everyone with the same title or similar job responsibilities falls into the same pay category.
Employers can, for example, pay a male employee who has greater financial responsibilities or who handles bigger budgets more than it does a woman who holds a similar position, but manages less money.
Just make sure you can justify the difference, based on the impact on the company’s bottom line.
Recent case: Dara Shoffner started working as a senior business analyst for a biotherapeutics company, earning $95,000 per year. Several times, she asked to have her job classification upgraded and eventually earned a raise to $106,400 per year.
Still, she was unhappy and demanded another reclassification to a higher level. Shoffner didn’t get the reclassification and quit.
Then she sued, alleging that a male co-worker who had similar job duties earned $123,000 per year.
The company explained to the court that the man managed more than $1 billion in yearly revenue, while Shoffner had managed just $150 million. Plus, the man managed expenses for 165 employees at 41 locations, while Shoffner had managed just 20 employees at 11 locations.
The court agreed with the employer that the jobs weren’t equal under the EPA even if the job duties were similar. The difference between each employee’s impact on the company’s bottom line alone justified the salary difference. Shoffner’s claim was dismissed. (Shoffner v. Talecris Biotherapeutics, No. 5:10-CV-406, ED NC, 2012)
Final note: The EPA allows different pay based on any factor other than gender. As long as you can make a cogent argument for a pay difference, courts won’t interfere.