Under the federal Equal Pay Act, employers in New Jersey are required to pay men and women who have substantially similar jobs equally. This law covers all types of compensation, including salaries, stock options, insurance benefits, commissions, and bonuses. However, many employers fail to pay male and female employees equally, and women continue to earn much less than men in the U.S. If you discover that your employer is paying you less than someone of the opposite gender for similar work, you might want to consult with a gender discrimination attorney at Swartz Swidler.
Substantially similar jobs
The Equal Pay Act does not require two jobs to be exactly the same to be considered to be equal for purposes of pay. For two jobs to be considered substantially similar or equal, they should require equal effort, skill, and responsibility and involve similar conditions.
Employers can pay one employee more than another if the employee is given extra duties. It is legal for employers to pay more for additional duties. However, if the extra duties are nominal, the court might still penalize an employer that consistently adds additional duties to jobs for men and not women.
While the EPA requires employers to pay men and women equally for equal work, employers might choose to pay workers different rates of pay for the same job that do not have anything to do with their genders. Some of the reasons an employer might legally pay one employee more than another for the same job include the following:
- Differences in seniority
- Differences in performance or productivity
- Differences in educational attainment
- Differences in experience levels
In some cases, employers will use one of these reasons as a pretext to pay women at their companies less than they pay men. They might do this purposely or because of unconscious biases they hold about competence, authority levels, and the value of employees.
Why a wage gap continues to exist
The EPA cannot completely eliminate the wage gap because of the complex issues that have resulted in it. Some of the reasons why pay inequity between women and men continues to exist include the following:
- Women are likelier to be caregivers, which can potentially interfere with their education and careers.
- Women tend to be viewed more negatively when they try to negotiate for higher pay.
- Employers often rely on past salary information when determining the salaries to offer new employees.
In New Jersey, the state bans employers from asking about past salary information from their new hires until after they have made offers of employment and have told the workers about their compensation packages. The goal of this law is to prevent the past pay inequities from previous employers from continuing on to a woman’s work with a new employer.
How to win a claim under the Equal Pay Act
To succeed in an Equal Pay Act claim, you will have to present evidence to prove the following elements:
- You have an employer/employee relationship with your employer.
- The difference in your pay is based on your gender.
- The work you and the other employee performed was completed in similar working conditions.
- You were involved in equal work requiring equal skill, responsibility, and effort.
- You were paid less than the employee of the opposite gender who performed the same type of work.
You will have the burden of proving every element listed above to succeed on an Equal Pay Act claim. This makes it important for you to gather all of the relevant evidence and documents to support your claim and bring it to your attorney’s office for review.
Understanding the burden of proof in an Equal Pay Act claim
Employees who file Equal Pay Act claims have the burden of proving the elements. If you establish your claim, your employer will then have the burden of proof to try to defend against it.
When you file a claim, you will need to have plenty of evidence to support it. Some of the types of evidence that you might need include the following:
- Company employment policies
- Pay stubs or receipts
- Other documents about salary or pay
- Text messages, emails, or written documents from your employer about pay
- Statements from others who might be involved, including co-workers, supervisors, or human resources staff
- Deposit receipts from your bank
Statute of limitations for Equal Pay Act claims
Equal Pay Act claims must be filed within the limitations period. The statute of limitations is a deadline for filing lawsuits. In most cases, you must file your claim in court no later than two years of when the last violation occurred. In cases involving willful violations, the deadline is extended to three years.
Do you need an attorney for an Equal Pay Act claim?
Proving that your employer violated the Equal Pay Act by paying you less than other employees because of your gender can be difficult. When you get help from an experienced employment lawyer, your attorney can help you to gather the right types of evidence to build your case and provide you with guidance about the best course of action to take. If you believe that your employer has violated the Equal Pay Act, talk to the equal pay attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can provide you with a free case evaluation and help you to understand your options. Call us today at (856) 685-7420.