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Recently, Oxfam America, which is a confederation of 21 independent charitable organizations, released a studying that showed that while 32 percent of workers in the United States earn less than $15 per hour, that number is even worse for Black workers.  Specifically, 47 percent of Black employees earn less than $15 per hour (15 percent less than the average) and 50 percent of Black female workers earn less than $15 per hour (18 percent less than the average). This type of disparity is not acceptable.

What laws protect against pay discrimination at work?

Best Equal Pay Lawyer Answer: There are several laws that address pay discrimination. Mostly obvious from its name, the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) makes it unlawful for women to be paid less than men for doing substantially the same job. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to pay lower wages based on an employee’s race/color, religion, gender/sex (including pregnancy and LGBTQ+ status), or national origin. Likewise, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) protects employees over the age of 40 from being paid less than substantially younger employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) provides the same protection to employees with disabilities or perceived disability from earning less. And, under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) employers cannot pay employees less based on known genetic information.

Do equal pay laws also make sure that employees get equal benefits?

Best Employment Discrimination Attorney Answer: Yes. In addition to salary or hourly wages, these equal pay laws also ban discrimination resulting in lower overtime pay and opportunities; insurance coverage; allowances of paid time off (PTO), vacation time, sick time, and holiday pay; use of company vehicles or car allowances; stock options; profit sharing; bonuses; and any other benefits. For example, an employer cannot discriminate based on race/color, religion, gender/sex (including pregnancy and LGBTQ+ status), national origin, age, and disability in providing unequal hotel accommodations, per diem expenses, or other travel allowances.

How do you prove a pay discrimination case?

Best Workplace Discrimination Lawyer Answer: An employee need not prove the wage disparity was based on a protected class as the initial burden of proving discrimination is met solely by presenting evidence a wage differential between someone in the protected class and an employee outside that class who is performing equal work. Molden v. United States, 11 Cl.Ct. at 610. To that end, an employee must show that the comparator employee – the one being paid more – is performing a job that: (a) necessitates substantially the same level of skill, effort and responsibility; and (b) are performed under the same or similar working conditions within the same establishment. “‘equal’ does not mean ‘identical,’ rather the jobs must require similar skills, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.” Ellison v. United States, 25 Cl. Ct. 481, 486–87 (1992).

Skill is evaluated by considering the experience, ability, education, and training are needed to do the job. Importantly, to determine that the position is comparable, the focus is not on the particular skills of each employee but rather the skills necessitated by the job description. To that end, it would not be relevant if one employee has a college degree if the landscaping position or restaurant server position does not necessitate such a degree.

The evaluation of the effort component relates to the degree of physical and/or mental exertion required to do the job.

The responsibility element focuses on whether there is the same level of trust and accountability that goes into the duties performed by the comparator. For example, while two cashiers may have identical job duties, the fact that one would have to make bank deposits at the end of the shift would be a difference in responsibility. However, nominal difference in responsibility would not justify a higher pay under the law – such as one employee having to turn off the lights at closing.

When considering the working conditions, courts will consider whether the job presents particular hazards as well as elements of the physical environment, including temperature, weather (indoor vs. outdoor), and ventilation.

The location of the establishment refers to a particular physical place of operation. For example, an accountant in Ohio cannot state an unequal or discriminatory pay practice claim based on the earning of an accountant in California.

Can my employer refute my claim of unequal pay?

Best Workplace Discrimination Law Firm Answer: Once an employee presents evidence of a wage differential between two substantially equal jobs, the burden shifts to the employer to prove by a preponderance of evidence (more likely than not) that the differing pay is because of a legal exceptions or affirmative defenses. Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196–97, 94 S.Ct. 2223, 2229 (1974). The company you work for cannot escape liability by merely declaring a plausible, non-discriminatory explanation. “It is well-known that when asserting an exception under [the EPA], [t]he burden [on the employer] of proving that a factor other than sex is the basis for the wage differential is a heavy one.” Brennan v. Owensboro–Daviess County Hosp., 523 F.2d 1013, 1031 (6th Cir.1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 973, 96 S.Ct. 2170, 48 L.Ed.2d 796 (1976).

To prevail on an affirmative defense, the employer must establish that the pay difference is based on one or more of the following: (1) a seniority system; (2) a merit-based system; (3) a system that provides pay based on the quantity or quality of an employee’s production; or (4) a differential based on any  factor other than a protected class, which is a sort of catch-all that allows an employer to prove that there was some other legitimate business reason for the unequal wages.

Can pay differentials be justified based on an employee’s prior pay at his or her last job?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: No. Courts have rejected efforts by employers to use an employee’s prior pay for the catchall affirmative defense.  For example, in Rizo v. Yovino, 950 F.3d 1217, 1228 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 141 S. Ct. 189, 207 L. Ed. 2d 1115 (2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected this effort and held that “setting wages based on prior pay risks perpetuating the history of sex-based wage discrimination.” In that case, the employer calculated a new employee’s pay by increasing the employee’s prior wages by five percent and placing the employee at the corresponding step on its pay schedule.

Can my employer just give someone a better title to pay them more even though that person does the same job?

Best Employment Discrimination Lawyer Answer: No. Discrimination laws all focus on the job responsibilities and duties, not the title. Hunt v. Nebraska Pub. Power Dist., 282 F.3d 1021, 1029 (8th Cir. 2002)(“neither job classifications nor titles are dispositive for determining whether jobs are equal for purposes of EPA and Title VII. We look to the actual job requirements and performance, not on-job classifications or titles.”).

How do I sue my job for pay discrimination?

Best Employee’s Law Firm Answer: If you are searching “how do I find a lawyer to sue for race discrimination?” or “What should I do if my manager is discriminating against me by paying me less based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Toledo and Cincinnati to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.


This wage discrimination and employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this equal pay page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I find an attorney near me to sue for equal wage violations”, “What should I do my company paid women lower bonuses,” or “My boss won’t pay me the same as a man even though I do the same job”, it would be best for to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney

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