While the federal Equal Pay Act prohibits wage discrimination against women, it doesn’t require every employee in the same position to earn the same salary. If you can point to factors other than gender (e.g., seniority, education, experience, skills, etc.), you can set different salaries for employees who hold the same job titles.
Still, it’s wise to periodically check your compensation levels for inadvertent discriminatory patterns. For example, if all female line managers earn at the bottom of the pay scale and all male line managers earn toward the top, document the legal reasons why these differentials exist.
If you can point to any of the following reasons, you can usually successfully justify wage differentials between men and women performing the same job:
- Seniority. It’s OK to pay more to loyal employees who have worked for your organization for years.
- Merit increases. As long as you use gender-neutral performance measures, you can pay employees more for outstanding performance.
- Production and quality goals. If an employee routinely hits deadlines and has a low error rate, for example, you can pay more.
- Factors other than gender. You can justify higher salaries based on education, training and other legitimate business reasons.