Since 1996, Equal Pay Day has sought to raise awareness of gender pay disparity in the U.S. The day moves closer to January 1 as the pay gap shrinks. 

This year, Equal Pay Day falls on March 15 & equates to how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned last year – 83 cents for every dollar paid to men. This wage gap also applies to minorities; racial pay disparity costs workers hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earnings over their lifetimes.

Wage Gap

Despite decades of progress, a wage gap still exists, and more work must be done. Women, racial minorities, and disabled workers take the brunt of the wage gap, earning as little as 54 cents per every dollar a white male worker earns. 

The wage gap exists because of biases against female leadership roles in many industries and unequal opportunities for advancement. While many of these historical trends are changing, women are still paid less than men overall. This systematic discrimination occurs in hiring practices across nearly every industry.

To close this wage gap, employers must prioritize diversity within their workforces. They should strongly consider setting clear policies describing pay equity and how salaries are determined. This could be crucial not only to protect the business from potential legal issues but also for employees to know that they’re paid fairly and equitably. 

Paying Workers Less Could Be Illegal

Paying workers in the same or similar positions vastly different salaries could be illegal. The federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits pay discrimination based on sex. Many states have also passed laws expanding workers’ rights relating to their pay. 

In Michigan, employers cannot discriminate against any employee based on their sex or gender identity in their pay for similar work. Michigan describes similar work as skills, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. This means an employer must pay comparable salaries to two people working the same job with similar levels of experience. 

For example, Jane has worked as a bookkeeper for her company for five years. Her colleague, Mike, was recently hired as a bookkeeper straight out of college, as the company has grown and needs a second person in this role. Jane learns Mike makes 20 percent more than her. The company could be liable for pay discrimination without a legitimate business reason for this wage gap.

Sommers Schwartz Pushes for Equal Pay

Equal pay for equal work shouldn’t be a divisive or complex issue. Yet too many employers are still paying workers less than their male counterparts. If you’re experiencing this situation, know that you have rights worth protecting. Please contact a Sommers Schwartz equal pay attorney today to confidentially discuss your case and learn how we can help.

Jesse Young

View all posts by
Jesse Young

Jesse Young represents clients in serious employment disputes, such as severance negotiations, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowing activity, employment contracts, terminations, and compliance. In addition, he has appeared in hundreds of wage-and-hour lawsuits and hundreds more arbitrations arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act and similar state laws.