The Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires employers to pay the same to male and female employees who perform jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility. The EPA allows employers to adjust pay rates for legitimate business factors “other than sex.” That’s why it’s crucial for HR to review pay scales, offers and increases to make sure no sex bias creeps in.
Often, an employer tries to use experience as the reason for different pay rates. To do so, the employer should create a compelling record showing exactly what kind of experience it considered and how it made the male applicant or employee more valuable.
Recent case: Chandra Chevola was a star performer at Verizon Wireless, winning stellar reviews and countless company awards. That all changed when a new supervisor began to see flaws in the way she handled customers. Eventually, she was demoted.
Chevola sued, alleging a host of discrimination claims, including unequal pay. Chevola had a base salary of $58,000, while two recently hired men made considerably more. One started at $79,000. Since Chevola could easily show a sex differential, it was up to Verizon to explain that the differential was the result of some legitimate business factor other than sex. It argued the men had more experience.
The court ordered Chevola’s EPA claim to go forward, letting her have a chance to prove that she had equivalent experience based on her tenure. Now a jury will decide whether the pay difference was the product of better-qualified men, or discrimination against women. (Chevola v. Cellco Partnership, No. 8:06-CV-1312, MD FL, 2008)
Final note: The time to justify experience as a differential factor is at the time you make the hiring decision. Document all business reasons—including experience, prior salary and education—that make a candidate worth extra pay.
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