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Pay Equity Matters: Mind the Gap

A California federal judge today granted the U.S. Women’s National Team an early victory in their pay equity battle against the U.S. Soccer Federation (the Federation), granting class certification to a group of players who want to collectively assert their gender-related legal claims. While Judge Gary Klausner’s order is just the first of several hurdles the women’s team will have to overcome in order to successfully challenge the pay structure that they allege favor the men’s team, it is an important milestone in any class action.

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.

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.

The salary history ban trend that has been sweeping the nation for past few years hit a speedbump a few weeks ago in Philadelphia. In January 2017, Philadelphia became the first city in the nation to adopt legislation prohibiting employers from inquiring about the salary histories of applicants. However, the ordinance came under heavy fire by Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and some of the city’s large employers, which challenged the legality of the ordinance in a lawsuit. It was originally to take effect in May 2017 but the city agreed to delay implementation pending the outcome of the lawsuit. 

If you’re a Massachusetts employer gearing up to comply with the state equal pay law set to be in effect in just four short months, you probably have questions. The law will prohibit you from paying employees of a different gender at different rates provided they are doing “comparable work,” and will also bar inquiries about salary history. But what constitutes “comparable work”? And when comparing employee pay, what counts as “wages” under the statute?

No one denies the pay gap between men and women exists. However, there is much debate as to how best to close that gap. In the United Kingdom (UK), legislators are employing a “naming and shaming” strategy to try to use to use the power of public accountability to push employers toward greater pay equity.

Employers got a good reminder this week in a case decided by an Illinois federal court about how easily complaints of unequal pay by a single employee can spiral into a conditional class action, upping the stakes and increasing the costs of litigation.

A conciliation agreement released by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) on October 4, 2017 revealed that State Street Corp. has agreed to pay $5 million to settle allegations that the company discriminated against more than 300 female executives by paying them less than their male counterparts. The settlement also resolves allegations by the OFCCP that State Street paid 15 black vice presidents less than white vice presidents.

Tags: OFCCP

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