The discussion of equal pay for women and men and combating gender inequality in the workplace is increasingly becoming a widespread, national conversation.
A diverse range of industries from technology to financial services, entertainment to professional sports, health care to hospitality, have been implicated for unequal pay based on gender. However, heightened awareness of the issue and a significant expansion of women’s legal options and rights are beginning to turn the tables.
Gender Pay Inequality: Statistics & Facts
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau, female full-time workers made only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 21 percent.
- The gender wage gap is even more significant when broken down by race: African American women earn 60 cents and Hispanic women earning 55 cents to every dollar earned by a white male.
- Mothers who work full time typically have lower earnings than fathers, earning on average 73 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.
- Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. There is a gender wage gap in 98 percent of occupations.
- The gender pay gap grows with age, and differences among older workers are considerably larger than gaps among younger workers. Women typically earn about 90 percent of what men are paid until they hit 35. After that median earnings for women are typically 76–81 percent of what men are paid.
- At every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s median earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education.
Consequences of Gender Pay Inequality
The issue of gender pay inequality has far reaching consequences for women and their families, beyond just the paycheck and fundamental principles of fairness.
The pay gap dramatically affects what women receive in retirement because it reduces women’s earnings. The major sources of retirement income, including Social Security and pension benefits, are largely calculated on the basis of career earnings. As a result of this and other factors, a higher percentage of women than men end up living in poverty after age 65.
Because job segregation and discrimination can steer women to lower-paying work in general, women are less likely to have health insurance, paid vacations or sick leave.
Student Loans and Financial Independence
When women earn less money than men, they are forced to spend a greater proportion of their salaries to pay off their loans. As a result, women who complete college degrees are less able to pay off their student loans promptly, leaving them paying more and for a longer time than men. This leaves male peers with more money to invest, to save for a home, to put in an emergency fund, to use as a cushion when they take a big career risk – while women devote much of their income to paying off student debt, which often stretches on for decades.
Gender Pay Gap by Industry
According to a March 2016 research report commissioned by Glassdoor, the industries with the largest gender pay gaps are as follows:
||Mining & Metals
|Arts & Entertainment
||Travel & Tourism
||Agriculture & Forestry
||Accounting & Legal
||Aerospace & Defense
|Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical
New Policies & Stronger Pay Equity Laws
A variety of policies and laws have recently been enacted or proposed, which will ultimately lessen the burden for an employee to establish that pay discrimination is taking place and provide employees with more transparency and access to information regarding pay equity. Some of these recent changes promoting equal pay include:
EEOC Data Collection
The EEOC, in partnership with the Department of Labor, is publishing a proposal to annually collect summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees. This expansion of compensation statistics will help identify employers who may be contributing to the wage gap by paying women less than men for the same type of work without a legitimate business reason for doing so, or by steering women into lower paying positions.
Pay Transparency Requirements
Many new federal and state laws (including laws in California and New York) make it unlawful for employers to take adverse action against employees for asking about or talking with colleagues about compensation; the theory behind the prohibition is that women cannot challenge wage discrimination that they do not know exists.
Rules for Federal Contractors
In September 2015, the federal Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published its final rule prohibiting “pay secrecy policies” to make it “possible for workers and job applicants to share information about their pay and compensation without fear of discrimination.”
California's Fair Pay Act
Under this law, which went into effect on January 1, 2016, employees in California are no longer required to show they were paid less than a member of the opposite sex for “equal” work in the same establishment – they can now make an initial case based on colleagues doing “substantially similar” work, regardless of location. An employee who files a successful civil action under the California Fair Pay Act may recover the balance of the wages, including interest, and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
Federal Equal Pay Act of 1963
Although not a new law, the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, requires that all employers must pay equal wages to women and men in the same establishment for performing substantially equal work. The law covers jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility and are performed under similar working conditions. The law covers all forms of pay, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses and benefits.
Unequal compensation can be justified only if the employer shows that the pay differential is attributable to a fair seniority, merit or incentive system, or a factor other than sex. An employee who files a successful civil action under the Federal Equal Pay Act may recover the balance of the wages, including interest, and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
The Paycheck Fairness Act
This proposed legislation would help secure equal pay for equal work for all Americans. The bill would update the Federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 with the following changes:
- Requiring employers to demonstrate that wage differentials are based on factors other than sex
- Prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages
- Permitting reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages
- Strengthening penalties for equal pay violations
- Directing the Department of Labor to assist employers and collect wage-related data
- Authorizing additional training for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff to better identify and handle wage disputes
Our Attorneys Advocating for Women's Rights Karen
Karen Menzies is a nationally-recognized mass tort attorney with more than twenty years of experience in federal and state litigation. Courts throughout the country have appointed Karen to serve in leadership positions including Lead Counsel, Liaison Counsel and Plaintiff Steering Committee in some of the largest pharmaceutical and device mass tort cases.
Karen focuses her practice on women’s health issues and drugs that cause harm to children. She currently represents women suffering permanent baldness following breast cancer chemotherapy treatments with Taxotere, and children who experienced severe side effects after taking the widely-prescribed medication Risperdal.
Karen believes in advocating for drug safety and has testified before FDA advisory boards and the California State Legislature on drug safety concerns and drug manufacturers’ conduct.
A.J. De Bartolomeo has more than twenty years of experience in large-scale mass, class and collective actions, including cases involving employees’ rights, personal injury, securities, antitrust, and consumer protection.
Committed to advancing opportunities for women lawyers, Ms. De Bartolomeo is the Chair of the Women’s Trial Lawyer Caucus of the American Association of Justice, overseeing the caucus’s work in leadership training, law student scholarship, membership and political outreach, and other pro-civil justice functions.
She is court-appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the Yaz & Yazmin birth control litigation, and represents women across the country who suffered serious complications after receiving transvaginal mesh implants.
Linda Lam focuses her practice on representing consumers, small businesses, and employees in complex litigation.
She currently serves as counsel on a wide array of cases, including a fraudulent voluntary employee benefit association lawsuit, a dental supplies antitrust case, and litigation concerning financial losses associated with Hard Rock condominium-hotel units.
Before joining the firm, Ms. Lam was an associate attorney at a national employee benefits and employment law firm, where she represented workers and retirees.
Andre Mura represents plaintiffs in class action and complex litigation involving consumers’ and workers’ rights, products liability, and constitutional law.
Prior to joining Gibbs Law Group LLP, Mr. Mura was senior litigation counsel at the Center for Constitutional Litigation PC, where he represented plaintiffs in high-stakes appeals and complex litigation in state supreme courts and federal appellate courts. Mr. Mura also authored briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, at both the petition and merits stages, and argued dispositive motions in trial courts nationwide.
Michael Schrag has nearly 20 years of experience representing individuals and small business plaintiffs in a broad range of complex class actions against large corporations in litigation concerning banking, credit cards, telecommunications, and real estate. He has also successfully litigated product liability, personal injury, medical malpractice, employment, and contingent breach of contract cases.
Michael currently serves as Co-Lead counsel in Beaver v. Tarsadia Hotels, in which the court granted plaintiffs’ summary judgment on the issue of liability in a large unfair competition class action against real estate developers. He represents small business owners in a RICO and fraud action against insurer AIG. Michael also represents purchasers of fractional condominium units in actions against developers.
Our Commitment to Excellence
Girard Gibbs LLP has earned Tier-1 rankings for Mass Tort and Class Action Litigation and has been named in the U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list for four consecutive years since 2013.
We have recovered over a billion dollars for our clients against the world’s largest corporations in cases concerning auto defects, drug and medical device injuries, data breaches, securities fraud, antitrust matters, and employment law violations. Our advocacy has been nationally recognized by the courts, our peers, and our clients.