Women across the country celebrated Equal Pay Day on April 2, and experts took the day to evaluate the progress made to close the gender pay gap and where it sits currently. According to the Pew Research Center, the gap significantly narrowed since the 1980s but persisted at a stable rate for the last 15 years.
Why does the gap seem to persist despite public outcry and an increased presence in the mainstream media? Researchers speculated that several factors contribute to the gap including educational attainment, work experience and occupation segregation.
Gender Discrimination and Equal Pay
Some also hypothesize gender discrimination in the workplace also impacts the gender wage gap. Almost half of working women report they experienced discrimination at work for their gender while only 20 percent of men had a similar bias. However, there is no way to prove discrimination impacts wage gaps definitively.
However, California enforces its version of the Equal Pay Act (EPA), which prohibits discrimination by sex in the payment of wages of benefits where men and women perform similar duties at the same skill. If you can prove your employer is paying you less due to your gender, you can file a claim under the EPA.
California’s Equal Pay Act is stronger than the Act on a national level because employees only have to do substantially similar work instead of a composite of skills and responsibilities. And it also eliminates the requirements for employee comparisons at the same establishment.
The EPA does states of the employer has a valid reason for the pay difference; they can argue against the claim. But California courts also require more legitimate factors for payment inequalities than the federal government.
The EPA also takes race and ethnicity into its language by stating it prohibits race- or ethnicity-based wage differences. It’s critical to note that women of color have the most significant wage gaps than anyone else and often resort to quitting jobs or working more hours to keep up on personal finances.
Hopefully, women continue to see the gap close in the next few years, possibly decades. Until then, do not be afraid to file any claims if you are discriminated against and seek the payment you deserve.