Federal equal pay laws prohibit wage discrimination between men and women. Employees who have the same job duties should get the same amount of pay; however, that is not always the case for many workers. In this article, we’ll explain what you need to know about discrimination and benefits for men and women.
When most people think of the wage gap, they think about the worker’s salary or hourly pay, while other forms of compensation may get overlooked. Some employers may feel that their employees don’t need the same benefit packages. In those cases, the employers could be violating equal pay laws by not providing the same benefits to both men and women in their workplace.
Under Federal law, any sex-based wage discrimination is banned by the Equal Pay Act. According to the Act, women and men who perform the same job at the same company must receive equal compensation. The Equal Pay Act only covers the differences in pay, and it does not cover hiring practices, promotion, or termination at a company. For a female worker to make a claim, she must show that her male coworker is receiving a higher pay rate and is also working in the same position.
However, it is not always a clear cut case for the worker. The employer can fight the claim in several ways. Men and women can earn different wages based on seniority, merit system, incentive, or other factors than sex. If the male colleague has more training or experience, then he could be paid a higher wage than the female worker. Employers must prove that these systems were applied consistently to all workers. As a result, the difference in compensation was due to these guidelines. In that case, the uneven pay structure is considered to be lawful.
Unequal Benefits for Men and Women
Civil Rights Act’s Title VII protects workers and equal workplace benefits. In this Title, it is illegal for companies to discriminate their compensation based on sex, race, religion, color, or national origin. Title VII gives broader protection under the law, and an employee can claim wage discrimination under both Title VII and federal pay laws.
Types of Compensation
Any compensation is protected from discrimination under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. These laws take into account that companies can offer more than a base wage as compensation. Wage can be anything considered a payment to the employee in return for their employment to the company.
Like a salary or hourly wage, the employer must provide equal benefits and compensation for employees in the same work roles. These benefits can include vacation and holiday pay, overtime pay, stock options, medical insurance, commissions, and retirement benefits. Employees performing the same type of work should receive the same benefits.
Non-Base Compensation Discrimination
Non-base compensation is in addition to salary or hourly wages, and it can be subjected to discrimination as well. Non-base compensation is not required to be provided by the employer. However, if an employer does provide non-base compensation, they cannot offer different benefits for employees based on any of the federally protected characteristics, including sex. If a female and a male employee perform the same job with equal pay, then the non-base compensation must be the same. If not, there may be a case for wage discrimination.
To prove non-base pay discrimination, you must determine how the employer determines the benefit eligibility of employees and what benefits they receive. If the employer has given non-base compensation to some employees and not others, the employer must show a criterion for this decision. This criterion must be applied equally to all employees, and it should not be based on gender.
If the employer met their criteria in a non-discriminatory way, they still may have violated the law. Non-base compensation that was different for other employees, especially those of a protected class, may be considered discriminatory. The employer will have to show that the non-base compensation was based on a legitimate business factor and not determined by the protected class status of the worker.
Is Parental Leave Considered Equal?
For many years, only new mothers were given the benefit of maternity leave. In recent times, there has been an increase in the legality of this type of benefit for female workers. Estée Lauder was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over their maternity leave policy at the company. The EEOC sued the company because they felt it violated the rights of new fathers. The company’s policy on parental leave gave more rights to women than men, and it violated federal laws. Estée Lauder provided the primary caregiver with six weeks of pay and only two weeks of pay for the secondary caregiver. The EEOC found this to be gender-based compensation since women are often the primary caregiver. Under federal law, this policy gave unequal benefits to women and men.
When Estée Lauder settled, they amended their parental policy guidelines. In turn, all employees with a new child could take twenty weeks of paid leave. Under the new rules, their policy met the same pay guidelines for both sexes. Employers are still able to grant paid leaves to childbirth or pregnancy that are limited to women as they are considered medical conditions. However, the law requires most companies to make sure that parental leave benefits are applied equally to both men and women.
While most people believe that equal pay only applies to an employee’s salary or hourly wage, in truth, it is much more complicated than that. Companies must take care to give the same benefits regardless of gender, and they must not offer more benefits to compensate for a lower wage. If these laws are not followed, certain cases may have merit for wage discrimination, and the employee should seek the advice of a professional attorney.
If you think you may be facing wage or benefit discrimination in the workplace, make sure to fill out our contact form for a legal consultation.