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I’m Earning Less than a Co-Worker to Do the Same Work. Is this Illegal?

There have been a lot of recent public discussions concerning equal pay for equal work and other laws regarding employment discrimination based on gender. Employers must pay men and women the same wages or salary if they are equally qualified and doing the same work. This does not mean they must have the job title, but their day-to-day duties must be the same. For instance, if everything a man and woman do on the job is the same, but the woman has been assigned the title “administrative assistant” and the man “administrative manager,” the woman could argue a case for discrimination.

Sometimes a Disparity in Pay is Justified

Despite attempts to make laws regarding equal pay clear, there is still a great deal of wiggle room for employers. Proving you are making less money because of your gender, or because you belong to any other protected class, can be challenging. This is because in addition to your status as a protected individual, other factors might be at play. For instance, a man and a woman might have similar titles and job descriptions, but if the man has a great deal more experience and tenure with the company, the employer would be justified in paying him more.

Quality of work can also play a role. If an employer is able to show that a woman consistently has subpar performance reviews and a man in the same position has outstanding reviews, performance-based pay increases would lead to a disparity in what they are earning to do the same work.

Take an Objective View of Your Circumstances

Ideally, you want to be objective when determining whether or not you have a case for discrimination based on gender. If you learn someone is earning more than you even though you are doing the same job, carefully consider the specific situation. Has the person worked for the company longer? Does he or she have experience elsewhere or advanced education? Is there a noticeable difference in the quality of your work? These questions can be tough to answer objectively, but the answers can help you discern whether there is a problem.

You can also ask human resources for an explanation. If you suspect your co-worker has a great deal of experience and you are told by HR this is the reason for the pay difference, you likely have no case. If their explanation seems implausible, you can file a grievance based on company procedure or seek the assistance of an attorney.

Ultimately, you need to decide if you think you are being treated unfairly at work and if it is worth pursuing legal action. There is some risk involved when you accuse an employer of wrongdoing, but in many cases, it is well worth it to ensure justice is served. Plus, anti-retaliation statues prohibit adverse actions from being taken against you for complaining of discrimination. Nobody deserves to be discriminated against and employers treating employees outside the letter of the law deserve to be disciplined.

If you believe you are earning less because of your gender, we can help. Contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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