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OK to pay more for different skills, duties

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), men and women performing substantially similar jobs must be paid the same. But what exactly constitutes “substantially similar” jobs?

According to a recent appellate court opinion, what counts is both the actual job as performed and any additional job duties the employees being compared may have. Additional duties quickly destroy any presumption that two employees are performing substantially similar work.

Recent case: Cathalene worked at the front desk for FedEx in York, taking packages, collecting payments and performing other counter work to assist customers. Craig, another FedEx employee, worked next to her. With overtime, he made about $20,000 more per year.

Cathalene sued, alleging EPA violations. She claimed they performed substantially similar jobs and that there was no legitimate reason for the pay disparity. Their base pay was within $2 per hour of each other, with Craig earning more.

FedEx saw things differently. It pointed out that Craig also had a commercial vehicle driver’s license and was frequently called upon to drive trucks on delivery routes. This happened several times per week.

Cathalene never delivered packages and her specific job description didn’t provide for doing so. Nor did she hold the advances commercial vehicle endorsements Craig held. And because Craig had to fill in on routes, he ended up working extra hours, thus earning overtime.

The court quickly dismissed the case. It concluded that the two clearly didn’t perform the same job or have similar duties. (Johnson v. Federal Express, No. 14-2886, 3rd Cir., 2015)

Final note: In this case, it was clear the two didn’t do the same job despite some overlapping responsibilities. Craig’s additional tasks easily justified the pay difference. Remember, under the EPA, employers can use any reason other than sex to explain the difference.

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