Equal Pay Day comes as the gender pay gap widens

Equal Pay Day aims to bring awareness to the gender pay gap. It is commemorated this year on April 2, marking how far women must work into the year to match what men made in the previous year.

Observed every year since 1996, the symbolic day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition of civil rights groups, labor unions, professional associations and other organizations dedicated to pay equity.

Unequal pay still prevalent

On average, women are paid 80 percent of what men are paid for similar roles. In some states, they earn as low as 70 cents on the dollar compared to men. Those numbers are even worse for black and Latina women.

And while decades of progress have narrowed the gap somewhat, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has produced data showing that disparity has actually increased since 2014.

Laws have limited success

Pay discrimination is illegal. Both the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit gender discrimination regarding pay. However, those laws have not successfully bridged the gap.

One of the problems is that the Equal Pay Act has four affirmative defenses that can be used to justify wage disparities. They are:

  • A seniority system
  • A merit system
  • A system based on the quality and quantity of output
  • Any factor other than gender

Employers have used these loopholes to escape liability for pay differences, making lawsuits over pay inequity difficult to prove.

Another reason for the pay gap may be that occupations traditionally dominated by women pay less than those dominated by men.

Legislation on both federal and state levels has been introduced to help close the gap by removing some of the loopholes in the Equal Pay Act. Other efforts have focused on creating transparency into employers’ pay decisions, even when employers forbid access.

We can help

Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano supports pay equality. The firm has also recently added employment law to its repertoire of practice areas. Headed by Attorney Erica Shikunov, the employment law department handles gender discrimination matters, among other issues. If you or someone you know needs help with an employment issue, contact us for a free case evaluation.

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