The Equal Pay Act (EPA) makes it illegal to set separate rates of pay for men and women doing the same work. But some employers don’t understand that job titles and job descriptions don’t matter much when it comes to comparing jobs.
What really counts is what the employee does on the job, not what her job description says she does. To avoid unintentional bias, you must look deeper than job descriptions when deciding on pay scales.
Recent case: Mary Ellen sued Metropolitan Hospital over allegedly different pay rates for male and female employees. She claimed that when she was hired, she was paid less for the same work than her male predecessors had received.
The hospital claimed that was because she was placed in a different job with a different job description. It tried to get the case dismissed based strictly on that job description.
The court wouldn’t go along. Instead, it said the case would proceed as usual. Mary Ellen will have to show that the hospital pays different wages to employees of the opposite sex, even though they perform equal work on jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility and the jobs are performed under similar working conditions.
To prove that, she will have to show what her job actually entailed, which could be entirely different from what the job description lays out. And the hospital will have to counter by showing that the jobs are indeed actually very different—not just different on paper. (Chepak v. Metropolitan Hospital, No. 13-1726, 2nd Cir., 2014)
Final note: Regularly reevaluate your job descriptions and match them to actual job tasks and duties. Make this a yearly exercise, coinciding with employees’ annual reviews.
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