Employment Law Basics: Navigating the Equal Pay Act

Employment laws can be confusing and downright scary.

They don’t have to be. As a public service, from now until my special Halloween webinar Answers to the World’s Scariest Employment Law Questions, I’ll be tackling each major law one by one to give you what you REALLY need to know. By the end, you’ll have handy one-page cheat sheets for each and every law and your terror level will be reduced to zero.

Today’s Topic: The Equal Pay Act (EPA).

Here is basically everything you need to know about the EPA in one handy post.


What employees are covered?

Employers with two (2) or more employees.

What’s prohibited?

Discrimination between men and women working in substantially equal positions with respect to pay unless based on factors other than gender.

What is a “substantially equal position?”

One that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.

When can an employer pay employees differently?

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  • Seniority or merit-based pay system;
  • Wages based on quantity or quality produced;
  • Other factors not based on gender, including differences in the amount paid by shift, differences in employee qualifications, etc.

What are some examples of discriminatory reasons for pay differential?

  • Overhead costs to employer;
  • Industry practice;
  • Applicant’s prior salary.

What’s included in an employee’s pay?

Wages, employment benefits and work-related expenses.

What are the potential penalties?

  • Back pay;
  • Reinstatement or promotion;
  • Front pay;
  • Monetary penalties and imprisonment;
  • Injunctive relief;
  • Attorneys’ fees.

Top EPA tips

  • Don’t rely solely on different job titles to justify differences in pay.
  • Maintain current and accurate job descriptions.
  • Apply wage payment structures uniformly by gender.
  • An employer cannot cure an existing wage differential by reducing the pay of any employee.

Stay tuned for more. Tomorrow we’ll de-scare-ify the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at mark.toth@manpowergroup.com.


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