Curt Masker is a Nashville wage discrimination lawyer who fights for workers who have been denied equal pay for equal work. If you are earning less than opposite sex coworkers in similar positions, you may be the victim of sex-based wage discrimination. The Masker Firm is dedicated to closing the gender pay gap in Tennessee one client at a time. Unequal pay claims are highly nuanced and speaking with an experienced employment attorney like Curt Masker to review the specific circumstances of your situation is a good first step.
Unequal pay for equal work is prohibited by both Tennessee and federal law. Employees who suffer sex-based wage discrimination can seek monetary and equitable relief, including back pay, front pay, liquidated and emotional distress damages, and reinstatement.
To support a claim of unequal pay, the positions being compared must require equal:
- Skill: a case-by-case assessment of the experience, ability, education, and training required to perform the job (not what skills the employees possess)
- Effort: the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job.
- Responsibility: including supervisory versus non-supervisory roles and the degree of accountability required in performing the job.
In addition, the work must be performed:
- Under similar working conditions: based on two factors: (1) physical surroundings like temperature, fumes, and ventilation, and (2) hazards.
- Within the same establishment: The jobs being compared must fall within a single establishment, meaning a distinct physical place of business (as opposed to several different places of business). Depending on the circumstances, physically separate places of business may be treated as one establishment.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) requires men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for substantially equal work. Similarly, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA) also afford protections against pay discrimination as a form of “sex” discrimination.
Importantly, the existence of highly paid female employees in the same establishment does not preclude a plaintiff from establishing an unequal pay claim. Palmeri v. Goodwill Indus. of Middle Tenn., No. 3:17-cv-00901, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143626, at *18 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 23, 2018). In other words, following the law for one employee does not automatically mean the company is doing so for other workers.
To establish a prima facie case of unequal pay, a plaintiff must show that her employer pays different wages to employees of the opposite sex "for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions." Equal Opportunity Commission v. Romeo Community Schools, 976 F.2d 985, 987 (6th Cir. 1992). The phrase "equal work" does not mean identical jobs. Rather, an employee need only show substantial equality between her job and a higher paid co-worker's job. Odomes v. Nucare, Inc., 653 F.2d 246, 250 (6th Cir. 1981).
The application of the equal pay standard is not dependent on job classifications or titles but depends rather on actual job requirements and performance, since vague job titles often provide very little guidance in determining the application of the equal pay standard. 29 C.F.R. § 1620.13(e).
Note that differences in pay based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production are legal and can be asserted by the employer as an affirmative defense to an unequal pay claim. 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1).
Do you have an Unequal Pay claim? Curt Masker is an experienced employment attorney who will fight for you. Contact Curt here.