Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), workers of one sex who perform substantially similar jobs are entitled to the same pay as their counterparts of the opposite sex.
But it doesn’t take much to make jobs dissimilar enough to thwart direct comparisons. Keep this in mind when preparing job descriptions and explaining pay differences. For example, a routine 9-to-5 job may warrant lower pay than a similar job involving longer shifts or overnight hours.
Recent case: Joann and Rose both drove shuttle buses at Stephen F. Austin State University. They worked a Monday-to-Friday daytime shift—from 7:20 to 5:20—driving a set route on the campus.
They sued the university when they learned that other university drivers earned more—and happened to be men. The women argued that, under the EPA, they should be paid as much as the men because the jobs were substantially similar.
The court disagreed. It pointed out that the women compared themselves to garbage truck drivers and other bus drivers who handled overnight and long-distance trips, and were also responsible for limited mechanical upkeep and repair.
Those jobs required different skill sets and involved erratic and long hours, including overnight driving. The additional conditions were substantial enough to differentiate the drivers. The court said it was legal to pay campus shuttle drivers less. (Fields, et al., v. Stephen F. Austin University, No. 15-40011, 5th Cir., 2015)
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