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Quick discrimination check: Tally pay by protected status

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources,Salary Negotiating,Workplace Communication

If you want to do a quick assessment of whether your organization may be inadvertently discriminating in pay, try this:

  • Make a list of all employees in the same position who work at the same location or under the same supervisor.
  • Place each employee in a group based on protected characteristics such as race or sex.
  • Average the salaries for each group.

If there seem to be big differences between the groups, it’s probably time to seriously consider doing a full analysis of your pay structure.

If the averages are close, chances are there isn’t an equal pay lawsuit lurking in the shadows.

Although it’s possible for employees who sue to show pay discrimination even when the averages don’t indicate a big disparity, it’s pretty difficult.

Recent case: Nevelyn Dumas and two other black SBC Global Services employees complained that the company paid them less than their white co-workers for substantially similar work. They sued, alleging Equal Pay Act violations.

The court allowed them to compare themselves to several white employees who had very similar positions under the same supervisor. It then looked at the average salaries of each group and found that there was about a $1,000-per-year gap between the black employees’ average pay and that of comparable white employees.

Because of the difference, the burden then shifted to the company to explain the discrepancy. The employer told the court the white employees made more because they had higher salaries in their last jobs.

That wasn’t enough for the court. It reasoned that widespread discrimination could affect that prior salary and using it as the sole measure could perpetuate that discrimination. The employer now will have to persuade a jury that race didn’t play a part in the salary discrepancy. (Dumas, et al., v. SBC Global Services, No. 1:07-CV-3583, ND OH, 2008)

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