Equal Pay Day: U.S. Women Still Earning 20% Less than Men

Equal Pay
Equal Pay Day: U.S. Women Still Earning 20% Less than Men

April 17, 2012, marked “Equal Pay Day” in the United States.

On average, women earn less than men and therefore they must work one day longer a week to earn  the same pay.  That’s why Equal Pay Day is recognized yearly;  it is to demonstrate concretely that it takes one day more per week for the average earnings of women to catch up to those earned by men in a similar job 

Today, women earn 81.2 cents for every dollar men earn.  The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women who were full-time workers had median weekly earnings of $669, nearly 20% less than men’s median weekly earnings (based on 2010 data).  Broken down by race, the gap is even larger.  Latina women earn $508 per week as compared to $850 per week for White men.  Similarly, African-American women earn $592 per week and Asian women earn $773 per week.  While Equal Pay Day is designed to highlight wage discrimination involving women, Latino and African-American men also earn less than White men.  Latino men earn $560 a week as compared to $850 per week for White men.  African-American men earn $633 per week.          

Women are already suffering economically in these difficult economic times, and their challenges are even greater because of the harms caused by pay discrimination.

Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center’s Gender Equity and LGBT Rights Program is committed to fighting for pay equity for women

There are a number of laws that prohibit unequal pay and compensation.  The Equal Pay Act, requires employers to pay employees equal wages when they are performing equal work and expressly prohibits wage discrimination based on the employee’s sex.  Similarly, the California Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees of one sex less than the other when both sexes are performing equal work.  Equal work need not be “identical,” rather it must be “substantially equal,” requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility.  When comparing a man and woman to determine if they are performing equal work, the critical issue is the skills actually required for the job.  

In addition to the Equal Pay Act, federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination also prohibit compensation (pay and/or benefits) discrimination on the basis of sex, pregnancy, race, color, national origin, religion, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.  Under California law, employers are prohibited from discriminating in compensation on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, or sexual orientation.

Elana S., a woman who was employed as a supervisor for a food processing company, came to us alleging that she was paid less than male supervisors in other departments at her workplace.  The pay differential claimed was significant—about $400 per month.  She alleged that all of the supervisors (male and female) performed similar duties but that the department she supervised was the largest and busiest in the plant.  Legal Aid represented Elana S. and filed a lawsuit on her behalf, which resulted in a confidential settlement. 

If you believe you have received unequal pay or benefits because of your sex, pregnancy, race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, age (40 or above), disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, you can learn more about your rights by calling our office at 415-864-8848.