Both the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the New York State Equal Pay Act were designed to address the practice of employers paying their female employees less than male colleagues performing the same responsibilities. These laws provide an avenue for female employees dealing with this issue to address the disparities in compensation. Individuals who live in New York State can find additional resources, overviews of other relevant statutes, and file a complaint about workplace discrimination by visiting the website of the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR).
The New York State Equal Pay Act provides that employers who face a claim of gender-based pay discrimination must show “a bona fide factor such as education, training, or experience” that would explain a difference in pay between employees with “substantially similar” work responsibilities. When New York State expanded their labor protections against gender discrimination in 2016, it became one of the first states to have pay equity protections that are broader than the federal standard set in the Equal Pay Act.
New York State continued to expand its protections against pay discrimination in 2019. Female employees do not need to have the same position as a higher-paid male colleague for a claim of gender discrimination. Rather, the key metric is whether the employees are doing “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”
While we are focusing primarily on pay discrimination based on gender, it is important to note that the New York State Equal Pay Act also protects any member of a protected class from being paid less than other employees are for “substantially similar” work. This means that protections against discriminatory pay differences are available to employees who feel they have been paid less based on their “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, or domestic violence status.”
In 2021, Syracuse University settled a class-action lawsuit brought by five female professors, who alleged that the university had “systematically underrated female faculty members” and had also subjected women to promotion standards that undervalued their contributions compared to men. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team recently settled a lawsuit after alleging pay discrimination based on gender. One of The Noble Law’s partners, Katie Abernethy, was interviewed discussing the details of the matter and how the Equal Pay Act came into play.
The Noble Law is litigating a related and ongoing case, Sempowich v. Tactile Systems Technology, where a female executive alleges that she was inequitably compensated when compared to male colleagues at the same level. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the proper metric to determine wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act is the rate at which an employer pays the employee, not the total wages. Otherwise, an employer could conceivably pay a female employee at half the rate of a male employee, then have the female employee work two times the hours.
If you believe you are dealing with pay inequity based on gender, please reach out to The Noble Law’s offices in New York to schedule a consultation. You may also find our subject matter page on the topic useful for additional information on pay discrimination.