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DC wage discrimination and the Equal Pay Act

Wage discrimination was a pervasive issue in America's workplace in the past, and some in Washington, D.C., would say it may still exist in certain situations. It is for these reasons that federal laws were passed to protect workers' rights, including the right to equal pay. One act that addresses equal pay based on gender is the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Under the Equal Pay Act, workers should be paid the same amount, regardless of gender, if their duties involve essentially equal responsibilities, skills and efforts, and are undertaken in the same types of establishments and in working conditions that are at least similar. Unpacking these factors can be key in understanding how the Act works.

"Equal responsibility" includes the extent to which the worker is accountable for performing his or her work duties. Small differences in the types of responsibilities involved in a job may not justify paying two workers a different amount.

"Equal effort" involves the mental or physical efforts that are necessary to complete one's job duties. If a job requires additional efforts that are both a regular part of the job and are substantial, that job may pay a different amount.

"Equal skills" involves a number of factors. For example, skill may be evaluated based on each worker's education, ability to perform the job duties and is the experience of the worker. The focus on skill, when it comes to the Equal Pay Act, is the amount of skill the position requires, rather than an individual worker's personal skills. For example, two types of jobs could be deemed equal based on the job's skill requirements, rather than the specific skills set of each worker.

"Similar working conditions" include any workplace hazards a worker faces while on the job. They also include the worker's physical surroundings.

Finally, the "same establishment" means the exact place in which a worker performs his or her job, rather than the business as a whole. However, there are exceptions to this.

While many advancements in workplace equality have been made over the past few decades, it is still important that laws such as the Equal Pay Act be honored. No one should face wage discrimination or other types of workplace discrimination based on their gender.

Source: EEOC.gov, "Facts About Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination," accessed on July 20, 2015

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