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Equal Pay Act of 1963

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Lawrence Schlam

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) (P.L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56, 59) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of gender by compensating workers differently for jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility. In adopting the EPA, an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Congress hoped to eliminate wage differentials because they were thought to depress wages and the standard of living, prevent maximum utilization of available labor resources, lead to labor disputes, and constitute an unfair method of competition. Congress also strove to eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the value of work performed by women.

Attempts to curb gender-based pay disparities in American industry were not new in 1963. In fact, during World War II (19391945), the War Labor Board declared and administered a policy of "equal pay for women." Prior to the passage of the EPA, several presidential administrations had proposed legislation to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination. They argued that employees doing equal work should be paid equal wages regardless of their gender.

Success finally came on February 14, 1963, when, in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz recommended enactment of "equal pay" legislation and submitted a draft bill. In its deliberations over the act, however, Congress purposely rejected the concept of "equal pay for comparable work" promoted by some advocates of this law, opting instead to adopt an "equal pay for equal work" formula. "Equal work" means jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and which workers perform under similar working conditions.

DETAILS OF THE EQUAL PAY ACT

Congress made this legislative choice because it worried that the adoption of a doctrine of comparable worth would ignore the economic realities of supply and demand. It would also burden government agencies and courts with the "impossible task of ascertaining the worth of comparable work, an area in which they have little expertise." Congress concluded, therefore, that government intervention to equalize wage differentials would only succeed where men's and women's jobs were identical or nearly so, thus unarguably of equal worth.

Section One of the act provided that those employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Acts (FLSA) must provide equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, and Section Two of the bill amends the FLSA to state that wage differentials based solely on the gender of the employee are an unfair labor standard. Section Three lists special circumstances and exemptions to the act. Section Four, among other things, gives employers bound by collective bargaining agreements a one-year moratorium on enforcement, or until the collective bargaining agreement expired, whichever came first, before compliance was required.

Congress exempted several forms of discrimination from the operation of the EPA. These exceptions include shift differentials, restrictions on or differences based on the time of day worked, hours of work, and the lifting or moving of heavy objects. The EPA also excluded differences based on experience, training or ability, as well as unusual or higher than normal wage rates which employers maintained for valid reasons.

In addition the law exempts wage payments if made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or one which creates a differential based on any factor other than sex. For example, differences in the employer's economic benefit received from the work performed can justify a wage differential. All of the occupational exemptions originally allowed for in the FLSA as a matter of political compromise also apply to the EPA, so workers in agriculture, hotels, motels, restaurants, and laundries, are excluded from the EPA, as are workers in professional, managerial and administrative occupations.

LITIGATION AND SUBSEQUENT LEGISLATION

In establishing the EPA, Congress provided employees with remedies for employer violations of the law, such as private enforcement in certain carefully defined situations. The legislation includes a comprehensive remedial scheme. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) currently enforces the EPA so that compliance with all employment-related laws prohibiting discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, may be coordinated.

Congress eventually broadened the EPA's coverage by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex, is broader than the EPA. Title VII is, in other words, a general anti-discrimination law covering more than just gender discrimination in pay.

Nevertheless, actions involving wage discrimination based on sex can be brought under both the EPA and Title VII. The standards for evaluation of claims under the two statutes, however, are not the same. There is, for example, no "equal work" requirement necessary to bring Title VII gender discrimination claims. Under the EPA, courts determine whether jobs are to be considered "equal work" on a case by case basis.

In sum, courts use many factors to determine similarities and differences between jobs which might establish a valid difference in pay regardless of gender. Generally, job classification systems make allowances for these factors. A job classification system that does not discriminate on the basis of gender will serve as a valid defense to a charge of discrimination.

See also: Civil Rights Acts of 1964; Fair Labor Standards Act; Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fogel, Walter A. The Equal Pay Act. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984

Hewitt, Patricia. Rights for Women: A Guide to the Sex Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, Paid Maternity Leave, Pension Schemed and Unfair Dismissal. London: National Council for Civil Liberties, 1975

Equal Pay Today

In 1963 women were paid fifty-nine cents on average for every dollar paid to men. Forty years later that figure has grown, but only to an average of seventy-six cents. The statistics are sobering:

There are more than a million women in the United States earning less than the federally established minimum wage.

Women with college educations earn only seventy-two cents for every dollar paid men. African-American women earn sixty-six cents; Hispanic women fifty-four cents.

A 2002 Government Accounting Office study found that full-time female managers earned less than men in each of the ten industries examined in the study. Furthermore, between 1995 and 2000, the wage gap between male and female managers had actually increased in seven of the ten industries.

According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the average 25-year-old woman who works full time, year-round for 40 years will earn $523,000 less than the average 25-year-old man who does the same.

Two pieces of legislation have been proposed in recent years in attempt to redress the inequity. The Paycheck Fairness Act, sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would increase penalties for equal pay violations and prohibit retaliation against whistle-blowers. The Fair Pay Act, sponsored in past years by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), would prohibit wage discrimination based on sex, race, or national origin and require employers to provide equal pay for work of equal value, whether or not jobs are the same.

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"Equal Pay Act of 1963." Major Acts of Congress. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Equal Pay Act of 1963

EQUAL PAY ACT OF 1963

In an effort to end gender-based discrimination in labor wages, Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Pub. L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56 (codified at 29 U.S.C.A. § 206(b)). The act established the requirement that women should receive "equal pay for equal work." However, the average wages given to women are still lower than those of men, and some critics have deemed the Equal Pay Act as a failure.

Congress had attempted on a number of occasions prior to 1963 to enact similar legislation. The idea for the statute arose during world war ii, when many women entered the workforce while men were overseas. The War Labor Board established a policy of "equal pay for women." According to its policy, women were to receive equal pay for work that was of "comparable quality and quantity" to the responsibilities of men. When members of Congress introduced legislation called the Women's Equal Pay Act of 1945, it contained the phrase "comparable work." This provision was the subject of a heated debate, and the bill failed to pass.

In the years that followed World War II, men reemerged as dominant figures in the workforce and attempts in Congress to enact an equal pay law stalled. During the early 1960s, however, Congress reconsidered the issue. When the phrase "equal work" was employed instead of "comparable work," the legislation garnered sufficient support to be enacted into law. The act amended the Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 201-209 (2000).

Congress stated that its intent in enacting the Equal Pay Act was to establish a "broad charter of women's rights," designed to remedy a "serious and endemic" problem of sex discrimination in the workplace. Under the act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against women on the basis of sex when women perform jobs requiring "equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions" as jobs performed by men. In order to recover under the act, a woman must prove that (1) an employer paid higher wages to men than to women; (2) male and female employees conduct an equal amount of work that requires substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility; and (3) men and women performed the work under similar working conditions.

The act establishes four main defenses for employers. An employer may pay a male employee more than a female employee if the employer can establish that payment is based upon (1) a seniority system, (2) a merit system, (3) a system whereby earnings are based upon the quantity and quality of production by the employees, or (4) a differential based upon any other factor other than the sex of the employees. Although the first three of these defenses have been the subjects of litigation, the fourth exception has been litigated more frequently.

Lower federal courts have struggled with the so-called factor-other-than-sex defense, and the U.S. Supreme Court has rendered few decisions on the issue. In Corning Glass Works Co. v. Brennan 417 U.S. 188, 94 S. Ct. 2223, 41 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1974), the Court ruled that an employer's policy of paying men who worked during a night shift more than women who worked the same jobs during the day shift violated the act. The Court found that the policy was related to gender because the employer knew that women would work for less money. Three years later, in City of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power v. Manhart, 435 U.S. 702, 98 S. Ct. 7370, 55 L. Ed. 2d 657 (1977), the Court ruled that a policy requiring women to contribute more to their pension funds than men violated the act. The employer in the case based its policy on mortality tables indicating that women had a longer life span than men, so the women were required to pay higher rates for their pension funds. Since this policy was based on gender, the Court ruled that the employer had violated the act.

Lower federal courts have established a number of tests to determine whether an employer has adopted a wage policy based on a factor other than sex. Some circuits require an employer to demonstrate a gender-neutral wage policy that accounts for disparity in wages between men and women. Other circuits require an employer to show that the gender-neutral system of wages is based upon the performance of a woman's job duties or that a gender-neutral system was adopted to serve a legitimate business reason.

The application of the act is limited for other reasons as well. Several courts have noted that the Equal Pay Act does not establish a system of "comparable worth," because the act specifically applies to "equal work." EEOC v. Madison Community Unit School District No. 12, 818 F.2d 577 (7th Cir. 1987). Accordingly, courts must generally compare the wages of men and women performing the same jobs for the same company when considering a complaint brought under the act.

The limitations of the Equal Pay Act has led a number of commentators to criticize its provision and the application of the act in the courts. Many critics note that the wages of women are still significantly lower than those of men, even though employers have become more willing to hire women. In 1997, President bill clinton declared April 11, 1997 to be the "National Pay Inequity Awareness Day," which signified to these critics that serious problems in pay inequities still existed.

further readings

Friedman, Jack A. 1994. "Real Gender-Neutrality for the Factor-Other-Than-Sex Defense." New York Law School Journal of Human Rights 241.

Houghton, Kimberly J. 1999. "The Equal Pay Act of 1963: Where Did We Go Wrong?" Labor Lawyer 155.

Szul, Gregory. 1994–1995. "Sex Discrimination and the Equal Pay Act in Athletic Coaching." DePaul-LCA Journal of Art and Entertainment Law 161.

cross-references

Civil Rights Acts; Equal Protection; Equal Rights Amendment; Women's Rights.

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Equal Pay Act of 1963

EQUAL PAY ACT OF 1963

The Equal Pay Act of 1963, a federal U.S. law, was introduced and passed to ensure that women and men involved in the same job, with the same job description, got paid equally. The act was meant to address the wage gap between men and women. As the gap increased it became obvious that many women were excluded from certain jobs in order to maintain the status quo of men, and those women who did break into the business world were getting paid less than men doing the same job.

During World War II (19391945), many women answered the call of the U.S. government and went to work in droves to produce needed supplies for the war effort. Prior to World War II, many women were expected to stay home to tend to their households; after the war, however, women found that they enjoyed working outside their home, they needed the income, or they chose to work to supplement the family income for some of the extras that disposable income could provide. The U.S. Congress determined that different pay based on sex tended to cause many economic and social problems. Allowing wage differences based on sex kept the living standards low, prevented the workforce from reaching its full potential, and tended to cause labor disputes based on the inequity of pay. By requiring equal pay, families were able to buy more goods, thus boosting the economy.

During the 1970s two court cases further defined the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Company was heard by the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and Corning Glass Works v. Brennan was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Schultz v. Wheaton, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals determined that jobs do not need to be identical but rather "substantially equal" in order to be protected under the Equal Pay Act.

Furthermore, in 1974 the Supreme Court determined in Corning Glass Works v. Brennan that women could not be paid less simply because they would work at a lower pay rate than men. At the same time the Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality of the Equal Pay Act.

Even with the Equal Pay Act and the subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court and other lower courts, equity has not been reached between men and women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women earned approximately 77¢ for every $1.00 their male counterpart earned in 2004.


see also Diversity in the Workplace; Sexual Harassment

bibliography

Butts, Cassandra Q. (2004, May 7). Marching on for equal pay. Retrieved February 17, 2006, from Center for American Progress Web site: http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=68060

U.S. Census Bureau. (2005, August 30). Income Stable, Poverty Rate Increases, Percentage of Americans Without Health Insurance Unchanged. (News Release). Retrieved March 1, 2006, from http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/income_wealth/005647.html

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (1997). The Equal Pay Act of 1963. Retrieved February 17, 2006, from http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/epa.html

Lawrence F. Peters, Jr.

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Equal Pay Act

EQUAL PAY ACT

EQUAL PAY ACT (1963). Legislation requiring equal pay for women was first introduced in 1945 in acknowledgment of women's war work. Business owners and labor organizations succeeded in thwarting the effort, in part because of the perceived need for women to leave the labor force to create vacancies for returning servicemen. By the end of the 1950s, policymakers were becoming concerned about insufficient use of "womanpower." Under the leadership of Esther Peterson, director of the Women's Bureau and an assistant secretary of labor in the administration of President John F. Kennedy, Congress in 1963 passed the Equal Pay Act as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require employers to pay equal wages to men and women doing "equal work on jobs …which[require] equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions." The Equal Pay Act was the first federal effort to bar discrimination by private employers on the basis of gender. Because the law was part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, wage and hour inspectors routinely reviewed company records and cited employers, rather than depending on complaints to alert them to violations. During the next decade 171, 000 employees received $84 million in back pay. In the 1970s, however, President Jimmy Carter's administration transferred enforcement to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed few Equal Pay Act cases. Because women and men seldom possess identical job classifications, the reach of the Equal Pay Act has been limited.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kessler-Harris, Alice. A Women's Wage: Historical Meanings and Social Consequences. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

Sealander, Judith. As Minority Becomes Majority: Federal Reaction to the Phenomenon of Women in the Workforce, 1920–1963. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983.

Zelman, Patricia G. Women, Work, and National Policy: The Kennedy-Johnson Years. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1982.

CynthiaHarrison/t. m.

See alsoComparable Worth ; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ; Fair Labor Standards Act .

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Equal Pay Act

Equal Pay Act, U.S. law passed (1963) as an amendment to the Wages and Hours Act (see Fair Labor Standards Act) which prohibits discrimination based on sex that results in unequal pay for equal work.

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