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Pay Equity Matters: Mind the Gap

Pay equity concerns in Hollywood are not limited to famous actresses (such as Michelle Williams) or comediennes (such as Mo’Nique). As reported this week by the Hollywood Reporter, the co-writer of smash hit “Crazy Rich Asians” rejected the chance to write two sequels to the movie after learning that she was slated to be paid about one-eighth of what her male co-writer would earn. While the dispute arose late last year and was just recently revealed, it aptly demonstrates that gender pay disparities still exist even in prominent positions. This story should be another reminder for your company to ensure your act is cleaned up before you pay the price.

As the newly crowned world champion U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team members received their winners’ medals Sunday, chants of “equal pay!” reverberated through the stadium. Those in attendance were well aware that the men’s 2018 World Cup prize was $400 million, while the female players will receive $30 million this year. Support for the athletes in their fight for pay equal to that received by their male counterparts also appeared to be behind fans booing FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Recognition of the issue was evident on social media, with Twitter reporting that there were five times more tweets about “pay” after the win, according to the BBC.   

A few months ago, Kamala Harris unveiled an ambitious plan to introduce stricter legal measures to force employers to comply with pay equity standards. Fellow senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has now announced her own pay equity plan that she would push were to she capture the White House in 2020. Warren’s plan, released on July 5, would promote pay equity – with a special focus on aiding women of color – by imposing new federal contractor rules and strengthening enforcement against systemic discrimination.

Alabama recently joined 48 other states by passing a law banning wage discrimination. On June 11, Governor Kay Ivey signed HB 225, known as the Clarke Figures Equal Pay Act, into law. The Act’s effective date is August 1. In passing the new law, Alabama now joins over a dozen other states which prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants based on their pay history. The idea behind such prohibition is that, in doing so, employers perpetuate the wage gap among men and women by locking women into unfair, discriminatory pay levels.

Tags: Equal Pay

An Oregon federal court judge just denied Nike’s motion to dismiss a class action on behalf of 500 or more of its current and former female employees alleging sex discrimination in pay. 

If a prominent candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president has her way, federal pay equity law would be strengthened to add some real teeth—and the spoils of the increased financial penalties would fund a national leave policy. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) unveiled a plan on Monday that would require employers to receive affirmative certification from the EEOC that they are in compliance with federal pay equity law, or risk facing a fine equal to 1 percent of their profits for every 1 percent of the wage gap that exists between genders. The fines collected would then be invested in building universal paid family and medical leave. This is the boldest proposal taken to date by any presidential candidate vying for a shot at the White House in 2020, and may spur the current slate of candidates to begin a substantive conversation about pay equity on the national stage.

In light of the federal court’s recent decision in National Women's Law Center, et al., v. Office of Management and Budget, et al., the new due date for EEO-1 filers to submit pay/hours worked data (now known as “Component 2” data) for calendar years 2017 and 2018 is September 30, 2019. The details were discussed in our May 3 Legal Alert. This post is a part of a two-part series, covering when the EEO-1 is due, who is subject to the EEO-1 reporting requirements, and what happens if the EEO-1 report is not filed. A following post will get into the details of compiling and submitting pay data and best practices.

Maine has recently joined the growing number of states that have passed laws prohibiting employers from requiring new or prospective employees to provide information regarding their prior salary or compensation. On April 12, Maine’s first female Governor Janet Mills signed into law “An Act Regarding Pay Equality.” The new law, which will go into effect on September 17, 2019—90 days after Maine ends its current legislative section—seeks to end wage inequality by prohibiting employers from taking salary history into account when setting compensation for new employees. Maine is the latest state in New England to pass legislation imposing this prohibition, following Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In a case that has been very closely watched by the higher education community, Spencer v. Virginia State University, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the dismissal of a wage discrimination case by a female professor who claimed she was paid less than male professors.

In a court filing yesterday, the EEOC suggested that employers have until September 30, 2019, to turn over pay data as part of their revised EEO-1 reporting obligations. It is uncertain yet as to whether the plaintiffs challenging the government’s actions will go along with this plan, and, more importantly, whether the federal court who resurrected the pay data reporting requirement will be on board with this suggested timeframe.

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