The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires that men and women working in the same establishment receive equal pay for equal work. Though it sounds simple on its face, measuring compliance with the Equal Pay Act is actually quite complex, since outside assembly-line type settings it is unlikely that any two employees will be performing exactly the same work.
Under the Act, women must receive the same pay as men who:
- Perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and
- Perform those jobs under similar working conditions within the same establishment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcement of the Equal Pay Act.
Substantially Equal Employment
To determine whether or not jobs are substantially equal under the Equal Pay Act, the EEOC will compare:
- Skill required
- Effort required
- Level of responsibility
- Working conditions
What Is An “Establishment” for Equal Pay Act Purposes?
It’s important to note at the outset that “establishment” has a specific meaning under the Act, and does not merely mean an organization or common employer. “Establishment” refers to a specific physical place of business. However, there are circumstances under which multiple locations will be treated as a common establishment. Thus, for example, a restaurant chain with a dozen locations may be one establishment or 12 separate establishments, or some but not all the locations may be considered a collective establishment.
An experienced labor and employment attorney can help you assess whether multiple locations within your business are functioning as a single establishment or separate establishments for purposes of the Act.
Substantially Equal Skill
For purposes of the Equal Pay Act, it is the skills required to perform the job that are considered, not the skills each individual employee possesses. Some core factors considered in determining whether or not two positions require substantially equal skill are:
Substantially Equal Effort
Effort refers to the exertion required to perform the job, whether physical or mental. In this regard, jobs that appear quite similar in function may actually be distinguishable. For example, two stock clerks in a large retail store might perform exactly the same basic function (taking boxes of merchandise from the back storage area and appropriately placing the items in those boxes on shelves).
However, if one of those clerks works exclusively in dry goods, moving boxes of dry cereal, noodles and other lightweight items while the other is assigned to boxed furniture kits weighing 25-50 pounds per item, the greater effort involved in the latter position will likely distinguish the two jobs for EPA purposes.
Substantially Equal Responsibility
For purposes of the EPA analysis, responsibility refers not simply to job duties, but to the level of decision-making authority and accountability attached to a role. Generally, the mere addition of a small task or a variation in small tasks will not suffice to establish a difference in levels of responsibility. For example, if one employee is responsible for collecting incoming mail from the doorman on the way up to work and another with dropping off the outgoing mail as he leaves, it’s very unlikely that this variation will suffice to establish different levels of responsibility.
On the other hand, if there are several members of a customer service team, but one specifically designated to handle customers who are seeking refunds and make decisions about those requests, that employee may be deemed to have a higher level of responsibility although he or she is performing essentially the same function in all other respects.
Substantially Equal Working Conditions
The analysis of working conditions is perhaps the most straightforward factor considered, and takes into account both comfort issues such as temperature and risk factors associated with the setting and the performance of the job responsibilities.
Defining Equal Work Under the EPA
Determining which roles within your company are substantially equal for purposes of the Equal Pay Act may require a complex analysis. Working with experienced labor and employment attorneys at KPPB LAW will help ensure compliance with Equal Pay requirements.
If an employee has lodged a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), we are here to walk you through the process and help you assemble the documentation you need to present the strongest defense possible.