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Equal pay and Compensation Discrimination

All employees in the United States have a federally-protected right to equal pay, and rights against any form of pay discrimination. This applies to all forms of monetary compensation for work, including “salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses and benefits.”

These rights stem mostly from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work conducted in the same place of employment, so long as the job content and responsibilities are “substantially equal.” This protection does not hinge on what title an employee has attached to their employment, but rather what duties they perform while at work.

There are five main factors that determine the level of pay that an employee should receive.


The level of skill required to perform a job is measured by factors such as the amount of experience an employee has in the field they are working in, their level of ability in performing the job, the amount of education they have at their disposal to perform the job responsibilities and the amount of training that is required for the employee to be able to perform their job.

This factor applies to the amount of skill required to perform the job, NOT the amount of skill that the individual employee already possesses. What this means is that two separate employees working a similar job could be considered as working equal jobs, even if only one of the employees holds a doctorate degree, because such a high-level degree may not actually be required to perform that job.


Effort applies to the amount of physical and mental work required to perform any given job. For example, a construction architect may not have to perform the same physical duties as a general contractor, but the architect could potentially require a higher degree of mental effort to perform the job.

In jobs that are similar, such as workers on a line at a fast food restaurant, the manager may perform similar tasks as a fry cook, such as working the grill and cleaning up, but the manager has additional, mentally-taxing responsibilities, and so it is not against the law to pay a manager more. It would be a violation, however, to pay two fry cooks different wages for the same work.


Some jobs may have similar tasks involved, but some positions in that job may have added responsibilities. For example, two librarians may have similar daily tasks, but one librarian may be wholly responsible for dealing with customer complaints or technical difficulties involving the computers. In this scenario, the librarian with the additional responsibilities could legally be paid more.

Work conditions

Employees may perform similar tasks, but be forced to work in different conditions. For instance, a telephone line worker fixing wires in Kodiak, Alaska may be paid more than a line worker fixing lines in the sunny conditions of San Francisco, California.


If a place of employment is a franchise, with many different individual establishments (places of employments), then the wages may be individually set for each of these unique establishment depending on a variety of factors. Therefore, a worker in a franchise store in Colorado may be paid differently than a worker performing that same job in Thailand.

Additional factors

Pay may be legally differed amongst employees based on the conditions of seniority, merit of work accomplished, quantity or quality of production or various other factors that do not involve gender. These are known as “affirmative defenses” and must be proven by the employer in order to be utilized.

In all other cases, pay discrimination is against the law

Employees may not have their pay reduced in order to correct a wage error on the part of the employer. Instead, any employees of lower salary must have their pay increased to account for this error.

If you feel as though you have been victimized by an employer who is engaging in unfair payment practices, whether it is due to your gender or any other factor, you have a legitimate case for legal action. The legal professionals at Altman & Altman LLP are prepared to litigate such cases and have 40 years of experience helping workers of all professions stand up for their rights.

Call our law offices for a free consultation today at 617.492.3000 or toll-free at 800.481.6199. We are available 24/7.

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