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  • Glicel Sumagaysay

Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”) amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), a federal law. The FLSA, as amended, prohibits the unequal pay of women and men, or wage discrimination, of individuals who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. A violation of the EPA is essentially sex discrimination. Retaliation for complaining about a violation of the FLSA and EPA, such as firing or further discrimination, is prohibited. Such retaliation can result in penalties in the amount of $10,000, in addition to damages and attorneys’ fees.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which President Obama signed into law, states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck. This means that instead of using the date on which the employer decides to pay a woman less than a man for substantially similar work as the date which starts the clock on when a lawsuit can be brought, the date of the most recent discriminatory paycheck can be used. Before this Act, many claims fell outside the statute despite the fact that women were being paid less than their male counterparts for the same work for many years, paycheck after paycheck.

I wrote to U.S. Senators regarding wage discrimination, requesting that they do more to enact legislation that ensures true equal pay. Senator Dianne Feinstein responded, and she provided staggering statistics:

  • Looking at the average pay for women, women get paid about 77 cents for every dollar earned by similar male workers.

  • According to the most recent census estimates, in California: The average pay for a woman working full time, year round is $41,956 per year, while the average for a man is $50,139. This means that on average, women in California are paid less than 84 cents for every dollar paid to men.

  • Put another way, this amounts to a yearly gap of $8,183 between full-time working men and women in the state. Over the course of a career, on average, women stand to lose $434,000 in income, and thus enjoy less Social Security, pension, and retirement benefits.

Senator Feinstein will be part of a team of senators seeking to reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 114th Congress. The bill was not passed in the 113th Congress in 2014 due to a filibuster by Republicans. The Act would have strengthened the standards for the Equal Pay Act and prohibited retaliation for coworkers who share salary information.

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